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Suchak Patel asked: What does "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)" exactly mean? Why is it considered important?

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  • Rukmani Gupta replies: “Free and Open Indo Pacific” was coined as a new foreign policy strategy by Japan in 2017 and which subsequently found favour with the United States (US) as well as regional Asian powers.

    As per Japanese policy documents, the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” seeks to improve “connectivity” between the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. In pursuit of this, Japan aims to strengthen strategic collaboration with India, the US and Australia.

    According to the US department of state, the Trump administration’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” has three components – economic, governance and security. Not only does the US seek greater economic engagement with countries of the Indo-Pacific but also aims at promoting greater transparency in governance and freedom for civil society in the region. Additionally, American security is perceived to be tied to a free and open Indo-Pacific. This is reflected in the US’ commitment to security assistance and defence cooperation in the region.

    “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” can, arguably, be considered a reaction to the militarisation of waters in the Indo-Pacific, the South China Sea (SCS) in particular, and the growing heft of the Chinese economy across Asia and Africa. The need to expand cooperation for greater connectivity and deepen multifaceted engagement with countries of the region may lie in perceptions that the prevailing status quo on “freedom of navigation” is being constrained by increased military presence in the SCS, particularly by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It is worth noting that China continues to support the freedom of commercial shipping in the seas of the Indo-Pacific.

    Ms. Rukmani Gupta is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi. She was earlier Associate Fellow at IDSA.

    Posted on February 05, 2019