The New Great Game moves from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific

The New Great Game moves from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific by Pepe Escobar – The Saker

Is the world’s center of gravity shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific – a new pivot to Asia?

In the context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), integrates all of China’s instruments of national power – political, economic, diplomatic, financial, intellectual and cultural – to shape the 21st century geopolitical/geoeconomic order. BRI is the organizing concept of China’s foreign policy for the foreseeable future; the heart of what was conceptualized, even before President Xi Jinping, as China’s “peaceful rise.”

The Trump administration’s reaction to the breath and scope of BRI has been somewhat minimalistic. For the moment, it amounts to a terminological switch from what was previously known as Asia-Pacific to “Indo-Pacific.” The Obama administration, up to the former president’s last visit to Asia in September 2016, always referred to Asia-Pacific.

Indo-Pacific includes South Asia and the Indian Ocean. So, from an American point of view, that does imply elevating India to the status of a rising global superpower able to “contain” China.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not have stated it more bluntly: “The world’s center of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The United States and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential.”

Attempts to portray it as a “holistic approach” may mask a clear geopolitical swerve where Indo-Pacific sounds like a remix of the Obama era “pivot to Asia” extended to India.

Indo-Pacific directly refers to the Indian Ocean stretch of the Maritime Silk Road, which as one of China’s top connectivity routes, features prominently in “globalization with Chinese characteristics.” As much as Washington, Beijing is all for free markets and open access to commons. But that must not necessarily imply, from a Chinese point of view, a single, vast institutional web overseen by the US.

‘Eurasifrica’?

As far as New Delhi is concerned, embracing the Indo-Pacific concept entailed quite a tightrope act.

Last year, both India and Pakistan became formal members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which is a key element of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

India, China and Russia are BRICS members; the president of the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB), headquartered in Shanghai, is Indian. India is a member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). And until recently India was also participating in BRI.

But then things started to unravel last May, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to attend the BRI summit in Beijing because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key BRI node that happens to traverse Gilgit-Baltistan and the sensitive region Pakistan defines as Azad Kashmir and India as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

And right on cue, at an African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat, New Delhi unveiled what might be construed as a rival BRI project: the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) – in partnership with Japan. AAGC could not be more “Indo-Pacific,” actually delineating an Indo-Pacific Freedom Corridor, funded by Japan and using India’s know-how of Africa, capable of rivaling – what else – BRI.

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