Explained: Multilateral Development in Indo-Pacific Region


Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the international community is being challenged by public health emergency and economic slowdown. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reflect on the concept of working towards Indo-Pacific region.

  • The pandemic has also intensified competition among major global players to enhance their soft power projection.

Impact of COVID-19 crisis on Geo-political Areas

  • The crisis has revealed the assertion of political power which could result in having a negative impact on territorial disputes and international law which was seen during the recent tensions in the South China Sea.
  • The ongoing tensions between United States and China has accentuated regional fault lines and urging other countries to take sides.
  • The ongoing tensions in Asia would be detrimental for the objective of multipolar Asia in a multipolar world.
  • It has affected the US and Western Europe more than China and Russia and will result in destruction of established and dominant economies.
  • The Gulf and other oil-producing countries will feel the pinch of diminished demand for oil and will suffer economically.
  • Investment in healthcare and healthcare products will see an increase, as countries will try to ensure that they are equipped to take care of unknown pandemics in future.

Need for Multilateral Development in Indo-Pacific Region

  • India’s national security depends not only on traditional security policies but also on its ability to foster multilateralism as well as the blue economy and environmental protection.
  • Traditional security policies, including the exchange of information and military cooperation against traditional and non-traditional threats haven’t lost its relevance in a COVID-19 world.
  • As Indo-Pacific region is often characterised by limited political integrationmultilateralism, including in its regional dimension, regionalism is necessary for the region.
  • Self-reliance will regain focus as countries will cut down on vulnerable economic linkages as had been exhibited in this crisis which requires emergency medical supplies and critical drugs, and critical parts to run infrastructure, trucks, trains, planes and automobiles.

Importance of Multilateralism in Indo-Pacific Region

  • Multilateralism is a tool that can help countries defuse tensions and build common understandings of shared challenges.
  • It is an unequaled mechanism to promote international norms and principles and to facilitate their implementation by increasing the cost of unilateral policies.
  • It represents a multiplying objective and does not undermine the factor of national policies.

Indo-Pacific Strategy of France

  • The purpose of joining and supporting regional organisations and mechanisms is a pillar of France’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • France is a candidate for full-fledged membership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and it also supports the centrality of the ASEAN.
  • It is committed to seizing the opportunities offered by other multilateral frameworks, such as the Asia-Europe Meeting or the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
  • France also welcomed the admission of India as an observer in the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and sees it as an opportunity to increase regional cooperation.
  • France is committed to working towards blue economy and environmental protection and is also committed to working in synergy with India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, including through further cooperation in the blue economy, building on its economic, scientific and academic assets in Reunion Island.
  • The French Development Agency (AFD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding, in March with the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Strengthening the Capacities of IORA in Promoting the Blue Economy and Fisheries Management.

Role of India in the Indo-Pacific Region

  • India has the capacity to galvanize a global response not only as a convener but also as a goods provider during this pandemic crisis.
  • Developing countries with large populations and workforce like India will need to find their own balance as there will be lesser dependence on physical presence in offices, giving way to technologies which allow much more work from home, online conduct of business and payments.
  • India called for a reform of international organizations like the WHO in order to ensure that they become more accountable for their actions.
  • There is an opportunity for India to project itself as a responsible and collaborative global player with the capacity to spearhead global cooperation to address shared threats.
  • India’s global outreach has been modest, bereft of propaganda and India is quietly trying to make a case of having the capacity to galvanize a global response as a convener but also as a goods provider.

Focus on Blue Economy and Environmental Protection in Indo-Pacific Region

  • The blue economy and environmental protection should also be at the centre of our Indo-Pacific strategies.
  • The inequalities within societies, marginalisation of some coastal populations, and vulnerability to climate change may well be aggravated in the Indo-Pacific by short- and long-term factors, ranging from the COVID-19 crisis, uncooperative appropriation of natural resources, as well as climate change, which creates environmental insecurity.
  • The protection of biodiversity and promoting a sustainable marine economy involves developing new economic sectors, facilitating local job creation, preventing the predation of certain projects when necessary, and upgrading their resilience to climate change.

Way Forward

  • The coronavirus pandemic has renewed the world’s focus on the deepening crisis in multilateralism and increasing inadequacy of global institutions to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.
  • Asia will recover faster as compared to the Western world from the devastating collapse of economy during the crisis, but in today’s interconnected and globalized world, unless most countries come to grip with the pandemic and unless a vaccine is discovered, its effects will be felt far and wide and by the entire planet earth.
  • QUAD should formalize an information and intelligence sharing mechanism on the pandemic and also they should put their scientific resources together to collaborate on a joint research programme for developing a vaccine for the coronavirus at the earliest.

Source: The Indian Express

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