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Akhila asked: What is Asian “security diamond” as proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe?

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  • Shamshad Ahmad Khan replies: Actually, it is “Democratic Security Diamond” which Shinzo Abe had mooted just before he took over as prime minister in December 2012. He envisaged a strategy whereby “Australia, India, Japan, the US state of Hawai form a diamond to safeguard maritime commons stretching from Indian Ocean to the Western Pacific.” If you put a dot on a map against the countries and the region identified by Abe and connect them with each other, it will look like a diamond. That is why it is called as “security diamond.”

    During his previous stint as prime minister (2006-07), he had envisaged an “Arc of Freedom and Prosperity”, a multilateral framework consisting of Australia, India, Japan and the US. However, it could not materialise as Abe resigned owing to health reasons and plummeting public approval rating of his cabinet. It is a known fact that Japan, which does not have a full fledged military and has legal restrictions on use of force by its Self Defence Forces, has long been dependent on the US for its security. However, as the US went to Afghanistan and Iraq and remained preoccupied for years together, its focus shifted away from the Asia Pacific countries including Japan.

    Japan believes that with the rise of China, there has been a relative decline in the US power. Therefore, it wants to complement the US-Japan security alliance by signing partnership agreements with other democratic countries in Asia. The idea is to fill in the security void due to declining American influence in the region. Yuriko Koike, a senior Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politician and former defence minister, observed in an opinion piece that “America alone cannot construct a viable security structure for the region. From India to Japan, every Asian country must play its part”, adding that “fear of provoking China should not stop Asia’s leaders from seeking a regional security consensus, such as the proposed code of conduct for disputes in the South China Sea.”

    A close look at the statements made by Abe and Koike suggest that the idea to forge such a security network is primarily aimed at securing the global commons. However, it is not clear whether Abe would aggressively push for the “Democratic Security Diamond.” This proposal may have been mooted at a time when the US was pre-occupied with wars in other parts of the world, but now it is re-committing its troops to the Asia Pacific as part of its “pivot to Asia” policy in which Japan remains the key player. So, in the present scenario, it is unlikely that the idea of forging “Democratic Security Diamond” will take off.

    Also, refer to my commentary, Limitations of the “Natural Partners”,, June 04, 2013.