The Us Free And Open Indo-Pacific Strategy: Implications For China (2017-Present)
Keywords:Asia-Pacific, Free and Open Indo-Pacific, United States, China, QUAD, Regional Order, Maritime Cooperation
The Indo-Pacific region is becoming the focal point of strategic competition in the 21st century. The region, previously limited to the Asia-Pacific, has evolved into a wider geographical and geopolitical realm, thanks to the unparalleled economic, political, military, and diplomatic growth of China over the past three decades. Since 2006-07, the region is receiving wider attention from the United States and its regional allies – Japan, Australia, and India. While the term Indo-Pacific has been developing into a geopolitical discourse since then, it came to the surface in the United States in 2017 as Trump administration assumed power. The United States views the rise of China as a threat to its liberal rules-based order and global hegemony. This article deals with the US Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP) formulated by Trump administration in November 2017 and reformulated by Biden administration in February 2021 to counter growing China’s assertiveness in the region, which China calls its ‘peaceful rise’. To achieve its goals, the United States heavily relies on its strategic partners, each of which has a different interpretation of the Indo-Pacific. Ineffectiveness of various bilateral and multilateral engagements along with the implemental limitations of the Indo-Pacific strategy itself has, so far, failed to bring negative implications for China. This puts the future regional order of the Indo-Pacific in a jeopardy. The regional actors are not willing to become a tool of the US or China in balancing each other’s threats indirectly. This leaves us to assuming that the Indo-Pacific region is most likely to observe a multilateral order in years to come. Given the criticalness of the situation, both the United States and China should opt for a cooperation mechanism rather than containment strategies to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.