In the recent past, Chinese illegal forays, activities and coercion in the Indo-Pacific are rising further. However, China is now facing active and open resistance from several countries across the Indo-Pacific region. Among all, India and its regional engagement are proving to be the pivot of the Indo-Pacific in the fight against China.
China has laid claims on Indonesia’s Natuna Islands in Borneo state and asked Jakarta to stop oil and gas excavation. Consequently, Indonesia looks up to India for partnership in the Indo-Pacific.
Recently, India and Indonesia discussed the joint production of military vehicles and equipment during a meet between India’s Dy. National Security Adviser Pankaj Saran and Indonesian Defense Minister Prabawo Subianto.
In addition, India and Indonesia have also agreed to widen maritime cooperation. Many Indian companies are reportedly planning to build ports in Indonesia. This development has made China particularly nervous given that both the countries sit at the mouth of the Malacca Strait that sees 25% of the world trade, including oil that China heavily depends on.
Cooperation between India and Taiwan is continually expanding. Last year in April, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu exposed how China blackmailed Paraguay to end ties with Taiwan in return for millions of Chinese coronavirus vaccines. Further, Wu thanked India for shipping vaccines to Paraguay on knowing about this Chinese trickery.
Recently, India-Taiwan ties have been in the headlines globally. The two ‘nations’ have begun talks to ink the Free Trade Agreement, a sort of de facto recognition to Taiwan as an independent nation. Also, Taiwan will build a $7.5 billion semiconductor manufacturing plant in India. These Indo-Taiwanese engagements come as heartburn for China.
Vietnam has a dispute with China over the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands. In its efforts to counter Chinese hegemony, Vietnam has prioritised deepening its relationship with India.
India and Vietnam have signed an agreement for oil exploration in the South China Sea, which has upset China. Moreover, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has signed a nuclear cooperation deal with Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety. Besides, India has also provided a grant of $5 million to Vietnam to develop an army software park. In addition, India’s naval assistance, Covid aid and diplomatic engagement with Vietnam have become an eyesore for China.
In another interesting development, the Philippines has set aside funds to buy BrahMos missiles from India. China has bullied the Philippines for months using its fishing militia in attempts to occupy more Filipino maritime territory.
Japan, Australia, US and the Quad
India is deepening and widening its engagement with its Quad partners over several matters concerning the Indo-Pacific. The four main areas where this cooperation is blossoming are maritime security, reducing economic dependence on China, infrastructure projects in India and other smaller nations across the Indo-Pacific.
Apart from these countries, India is steadily augmenting its ties with several other countries in the region, including South Korea, Mongolia, Singapore, etc. This Indian outreach, in addition to naval modernisation, is building bridges with nations in immediate and extended neighbourhoods and is cementing India as a net security provider in Indo-Pacific against China’s hegemonic designs.