- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Philippines to attend the ASEAN-India summit, the East Asia Summit and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership summit has put India centre-stage in the Asian region now referred to as “Indo-Pacific”. Equally, it puts the “Indo-Pacific” and ties with the U.S. centre-stage in India’s Act East policy, in all three spheres: political, strategic and economic. Mr. Modi’s arrival in Manila was preceded by the first meeting of the India-U.S.-Japan-Australia quadrilateral, a grouping first mooted in 2006 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
- It ended with statements on cooperation for a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”, a direct signal that it will counter China’s actions in the South China Sea if necessary. Next, Mr. Modi’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump saw a similar emphasis on cooperating in the Indo-Pacific, a term now widely adopted by the U.S. The ‘Quad’ doesn’t just pertain to maritime surveillance, it also aims at enhancing connectivity in accordance with “the rule of law” and “prudent financing” in the Indo-Pacific together, a reference to American plans to build an “alternative financing model” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Finally, Mr. Modi’s speech to ASEAN vowed to bring India’s economic and business ties with the region up to the level of their “exceptionally good political and people-to-people relations”. This sets the stage for closer engagement ahead of the 25th year Commemorative Summit to be held in Delhi in January 2018, with ASEAN leaders also expected to attend Republic Day festivities.
- The clarity in India’s purpose in East Asia at this juncture is important, but the next steps are equally vital. To begin with, despite a government statement to the contrary, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Quad, also called a “coalition of democracies” of the Indo-Pacific, is a front aimed at countering China’s influence. As the only member of the proposed coalition that is also part of another security arrangement involving China and Russia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, India’s ability to balance its interests will be tested. Finally, while there will be much to navigate on the political front, Mr. Modi would be keen to keep a sharp focus on the economic tailwinds during his engagements in Manila. The 10 ASEAN countries account for about 11% of India’s global trade. For the past few years India has joined the ASEAN “plus six”, including China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, to discuss the RCEP free trade agreement. Talks have often run into rough weather over India’s stand on visas and services access, while also holding out against free trade that could give China an unfair edge in goods trade. Mr. Modi’s work is cut out as he clarifies India’s pivot in east Asia.
Comprehensive: complete; including all or nearly all elements or aspects of something.
Example: A comprehensive list of sources
Sphere: an area of activity, interest, or expertise; a section of society or an aspect of life distinguished and unified by a particular characteristic.
Example: Political reforms to match those in the economic sphere
Synonyms: domain, realm, province, field, area, territory, arena
Strategic: relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.
Example: The company should take strategic actions to cope with fundamental changes in the environment
Synonyms: planned, calculated, tactical, politic, judicious, prudent, shrewd
Precede: come before something in time.
Example: A gun battle had preceded the explosions
Synonyms: go/come before, lead (up) to, pave/prepare the way for, herald
Quadrilateral: having four straight sides.
Example: The bilobate living area has quadrilateral contours and is partly flanked by some horizontal logs and a vertical slab.
Prosperous: successful in material terms; flourishing financially.
Example: Prosperous middle-class professionals
Accordance: in a manner conforming with.
Example: The product is disposed of in accordance with federal regulations
Synonyms: in agreement with, in conformity with, in line with, true to, in the spirit of
Prudent: acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
Example: No prudent money manager would authorize a loan without first knowing its purpose
Synonyms: wise, well judged, sensible, politic, judicious, sagacious, sage
Commemorative: acting as a memorial or mark of an event or person.
Example: A commemorative plaque
Synonyms: memorial, remembrance, celebratory
Juncture: a particular point in events or time.
Example: It is difficult to say at this juncture whether this upturn can be sustained
Synonyms: point, point in time, time, moment, moment in time, period
Ability: possession of the means or skill to do something.
Example: The manager had lost his ability to motivate the players
Synonyms: capacity, capability, potential, potentiality, power, faculty, aptness
Tailwind: a wind blowing in the direction of travel of a vehicle or aircraft; a wind blowing from behind.
Example: A tailwind had brought the aircraft into the airport quicker than expected.
Unfair: not based on or behaving according to the principles of equality and justice.
Example: At times like these the legal system appears inhumane and unfair
Synonyms: unjust, inequitable, prejudiced, biased, discriminatory, one-sided
Pivot: the central point, pin, or shaft on which a mechanism turns or oscillates.
Example: The insert requires minimal preventive-maintenance grease at its pivot points and axles.
Synonyms: fulcrum, axis, axle, swivel, pin, shaft, hub, spindle, hinge