The Transitioning Security Order in the Indo-Pacific: Furthering India-EU & Triangular Cooperation
Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy & Richard Ghiasy   ·   30 Mar, 2023   ·   216    ·    Special Report

The ‘Indo-Pacific’ simultaneously represents a geography, a concept, a process, and an outcome. Yet, how the construct influences security order and the ordering process in the region has received limited attention, thus encouraging this topic’s expansion. Moreover, there is no definitional consensus on what a ‘security order’ entails. The polysemic nature of the term ‘order’—and by extension, ‘security order’—typically also confounds more than it clarifies. 

Meanwhile, the construct’s operationalisation is inducing an ecosystem-level transition across the wider region, and faint contours of a networked security order seem to be emerging. Thus far, the US and its hub-and-spokes alliance system have been the most potent conduits for this proto-order’s evolution. Paradoxically, this transition is strengthening and diffusing the US’ security role in the wider region. Equally, patterns discernible in these transitions demonstrate a quest for ecosystem-level agility. 

However, the construct’s genesis and raison d’être—deterring and absorbing China’s unchecked influence—also has the potential to kick the Asian security ordering can down the road. But China is a geographical reality and currently the nucleus of the Asian economic order. Therefore, ‘re-ordering’ pursued via the ‘Indo-Pacific’ will need to move beyond mere power balancing at some point. 

Regional stakeholders’ actions reflect this calculus. For instance, what is underway is not a linear power-balancing effort involving a collective of entities working in concert merely to deter China. On the contrary, regional stakeholders are steering the process in directions they find manageable, reasonable, and beneficial to their respective national interests. 

So where does the India-EU partnership figure in this matrix? 

Indian and EU capabilities to produce a de-escalatory effect on Sino-US contestation are limited and are likely remain so for the foreseeable future. However, the construct provides valuable impetus to the India-EU politico-security partnership and a compelling opportunity to collaboratively temper the ordering process as co-shapers rather than passive participants. The two are uniquely positioned to foster a third way based on cooperative, consultative approaches as an alternative to the US’ more binarily-inclined strategies and China’s opaque security visions. Crucially, both are well-placed to engage proponents and critics. 

Based on these considerations, this policy report does three things: 

1. Traces how the construct induces transitions in the security order/s of the Indo-Pacific
2. Contextualises how these transitions interact with Indian and EU security interests
3. Offers 10 simple but actionable ways to optimise India-EU collaboration for a cooperative security community in the Indo-Pacific.

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