US launches its new Indo-Pacific strategy, commits to supporting India’s rise



The emerging power and influence of India in the global scene is surely aspect for the US to make the country a priority in its growth strategy.

On Friday, February 11, the Biden administration released new Indo-Pacific strategy, termed India as a “like-minded partner and leader in South Asia and the Indian Ocean”; a “driving force” of Quad and other regional fora; as “active in and connected to Southeast Asia”; an “engine for regional growth and development”; and a ‘net security provider in the region”.

The strategy is to strengthen its ties with India against the rise of the Chinese aggression Indo-Pacific region and commit itself to a more effective, more enduring and play a stronger role in the region.

In specific, the policy document commits the US to support “India’s continued rise and regional leadership” as a core action point to implement its vision of the Indo-Pacific, in particular over the next 12-14 months.

The strategy – the first such region-specific strategy to be released under the Joe Biden administration – says that the US is committed to a “free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient” Indo-Pacific region. It defines the region as stretching from the US’s Pacific coastline to the Indian Ocean, and outlines its political, military, strategic and economic importance for the US.

It mentions the bipartisan support that greater investment in the region has had in the US, across several administrations.

Richard Verma, former US ambassador to India, said, “The strategy is strong and smart, and it’s reassuring to see India playing a leading role. As natural allies, India and the US have a shared interest in a free and open, safe, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. That’s exactly what the strategy aims to achieve in a balanced and thoughtful way.”

Dhruva Jaishankar, executive director of the Observer Research Foundation-America in Washington DC, said, “The document heralds a further consolidation of India-US strategic ties, both in terms of shared challenges such as on China, but also as an important partner in its own right. In fact, the prominence given to India and the Quad is notable.”

The US says it does not aim to change China, but to “shape the strategic environment in which it operates”, by “building a balance of influence” that is “maximally favorable (sic)” to the US, its allies and partners, and the interests and values they share.

To tackle this and other challenges such as climate crisis and the pandemic, the strategy outlines five core US objectives in the region – advancing a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, building connections within and beyond the region, driving regional prosperity, bolstering Indo-Pacific security, building regional resilience to transnational threats.

The new strategy also recognizes that the US cannot do so on its own, and underlines the role of allies and partners, such as India.

Commenting on the overall document, Ryan Fedasuik, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Centre for Security and Emerging Technology, said that five key topics dominated the strategy – climate, technology supply chains, economic integration, stability on the Korean peninsula, and most of all, China’s “malign influence and coercive economic practices”.

“The strategy offered clear, welcome statements about deterring China and providing support for Taiwan. The focus on combating climate crisis is a welcome addition. US partners in Southeast Asia are expected to be some of those most severely affected by changes in temperature and rising ocean levels. By comparison, the Trump administration’s 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy did not mention these issues at all.”

Identifying the possible challenges, ORF’s Dhruva Jaishankar said, “A big question mark surrounds the Indo-Pacific economic framework, and while more has been promised for later in 2022, it remains to be seen whether the steps taken on standards, technology, and regulation will be sufficient and purposefully executed.”