India’s Act East Policy and the policies of countries like Japan and Australia are balancing the increasing influence of China in the Southeast Asian region, US lawmakers have been informed by a thinktank expert.
“As China continues to invest in its military and lay down new hulls at breakneck speed, claimants have sought assistance from other partners in the region. In 2014-2015, they have begun to find it in Japan, Australia, and India,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper Director, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
During a Congressional hearing yesterday, Rapp-Hooper said India has begun to implement the ‘Act East Policy’ to bolster its ties with the region.
At the 2014 India-ASEAN and East Asia summits, Indian officials emphasised freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes, and importance of international law, she said.
In September 2014, India and Vietnam issued a joint communique opposing threats to freedom of navigation and use of coercion in the South China Sea.
“In June 2015, India and the US signed a defence framework that includes a pledge to increase each other’s capability to secure…freedom of navigation across sea lanes of communication.
“In June 2015, India also sent a four-ship naval flotilla to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia, as part of a visit to the South China Sea,” Rapp-Hooper said.
She noted that countries in the region have also reacted to China’s assertiveness through multilateral mechanisms.
“Reportedly, Vietnam, India, and Japan have privately agreed to work in a trilateral format to coordinate security policies,” she said.
Rapp-Hooper recommended that the US establish a mechanism to coordinate partner capacity building efforts in Southeast Asia with Australia, Japan, and India, so that training and equipment support is mutually reinforcing.
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