ISLAMABAD: If you want peace, prepare for war, said Roman General, Vegetius. The idea introduced by “Rei Militaris Instituta,” Vegetius is a foundational concept in the subject of international relations. According to this concept states exercise power and strength to ensure peace. In other words they use force to assert their writ, secure and further their interests. International world order has remained very dynamic. States have been using different means and tools to show off their power and compel countries specially developing economies to become submissive and adhere to the norms and values set by the great powers. America for a considerable period of time enjoyed the status of super power and also became the guarantor of peace and assumed the role of policing force around the world. It has led various coalitions and alliances to maintain and assure peace to its allies. But presently it seems that there is a shift in balance of power and US is unable to maintain its stature as a great power. It has engaged itself on numerous fronts simultaneously that it is almost impossible for America to cope with multi-challenging environment alone.
China, an emerging economic power is pacing its reach and influence in the international arena. Implementation of Belt Road Initiative and establishing overseas military bases with rapid economic development clearly indicates that China is following a comprehensive development policy. The whole world is witness to Chinese technological advancements and is dependent on its products directly or indirectly. China is trying to ascertain its role as a responsible emerging power without any aggressive intentions but its increasing influence and assertiveness on military and politico-economic front is a great concern for US. Chinese claims and increased influence in South China Sea has confirmed US apprehensions and has led to direct confrontation with US and the regional stake holders.
South China Sea, in the Pacific Ocean is strategically a very important passage that hosts one third of world trade and is a resource rich maritime region. All stakeholders wish to control this most important sea lane of communication (SLOCs), where America is already established as a power broker. Similarly the Indian Ocean being the third largest ocean entails major sea lanes carrying a huge traffic of container ships, bulk cargo and oil shipments. The maritime trade routes in Indo-pacific region are the life line for energy supply and economic prosperity. As Alfred Mahan said whoever dominates the Indian Ocean will dominate the Asia. This ocean is the key to seven seas. In the 21st century the destiny of the world will be decided by its waters.
US realised the importance and potential of maritime sector; therefore it has established extensive overseas military bases to not only ensure its presence in strategically important sectors but also safeguard its economic and vested interests. Stakeholders in indo-pacific region are mostly developing economies and allies to America who are greatly dependent on US for their security and economic survival. Earlier and this year multinational military drills have been conducted in the Indo-pacific region. US has been in attendance as participant or organiser in all of them. US participation in recent MALABAR and SEABREEZE 21 exercises seems to be an attempt of muscle flexing in the region and also to contain increasing Chinese influence. Time and again America has emphasised that Chinese assertiveness is unacceptable and US will not let go its role as a supervisor in the international social system. To keep a check on Chinese expansion goals US is preparing India as a counterweight potential candidate to dominate in IOR. Multilateral regional endeavours by liberal democracies with similar perspectives and approaches to the rule of international law would remain crucial in their respective partnerships with Indian Ocean Region (IOR) littoral states, aimed at capacity building, developing infrastructure and contributing to the sustainable development of the regions.
The prevailing mistrust among contesting candidates has led to an arms race in IOR generating proxy war settings. India and Pakistan are major members in IOR, who have jumped in to this arms competition and chances for cooperation and integration have become meagre. If states are characterised only by interest and strategies, cooperative outcomes are unlikely to occur. A shared understanding regarding the rules of the game, the nature of permissible plays the linkage between choices and outcomes. Socially defined states, operating within given institutional sites, engage in behaviour, which is both competitive and cooperative. Liberal democracies holding vital stakes in Asia and its future geopolitical and economic order should not let go of the solid foundations and convergence at the strategic level of greater leverage and say in the future security design of Asia by undertaking flexible decisions based on maritime border variables in order to achieve strategic deliverables, multilaterally. The commonality of goals such as strengthening multilateralism, protecting an international maritime order based on law and international development cooperation (scientific and technological) need to be highlighted as priority areas. Multilateral initiatives shall likely propel growth and investment through capacity building pave way for better integration in IOR, Indo-pacific and its stake holders and will further advance sustainable development by addressing development challenges including those identified in 2030 agenda, the Paris Agreement and the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
By Zobia Khan