India is of key strategic importance to Indo-Pacific in as far as Australian foreign policy is concerned. This was unanimous sentiment expressed by a panel of experts from Australia who spoke on the topic’Australia’s pivotal role in the Indo Pacific region’ organised by CUTS International in New Delhi.
Speaking as a key note speaker at the event, Australia’sFormer Foreign SecretaryPeter Varghesestressed upon the need to find a strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific region where China’s influence can be balanced by the Quad of US, Australia, Japan and India.
The address by Peter Varghese was followed by a panel discussion which saw the participation of notables like former Australian Foreign and Defence Minister Stephen Smith, CEO of Perth US-Asia Centre, Gordon Flake and Secretary General of CUTS International Pradeep Mehta.
The panel was chaired by noted political commentator Sanjaya Baru.
The panel felt that while the concept of Indo-Pacific is still evolving, it is the right formulation to ensure that rule based order is maintained despite receding role of the US from the global order.
The panel opined that the key challenge for defenders of rule based order will be to ensure that core values underpinning a liberal order are not compromised.
The Australian experts also indicated from Australia’s perspective the single most important geography in the Indo-Pacific will be India and not so much other nations even though they hold a considerable importance.
This is interesting in light of the fact that Indo-Pacific description is as much contested as the region itself. The description varies according to strategic interests of different countries in the region.
Experts also felt that ASEAN as a regional block has a reason to support the objective of Quad even though some individual countries in the grouping might find it difficult to resist Chinese influence.
Australian experts feel that India’s membership in Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) will be crucial in times ahead to meet the above mentioned objective.
The discussants also touched upon the issue of Iran and US’s unilateral exit from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Peter Varghese in his remarks stated that rescinding of the agreement by the US is not in the best interest of global security and peace.
It may be noted that Varghese has recently authored a report titled ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035’ at the request of the Australian Government.
CUTS International, which in April inaugurated its 6th overseas centre in the US, is looking at the issues concerning India and her strategic global interests closely in the wake of global power shifting from West to the East.