Journal Articles | 14 May 2014

In defence of the Indo-Pacific: Australia's new strategic map

In this article for the Australian Journal of International Affairs, the Lowy Institutes International Security program director Rory Medcalf argues that Indo-Pacific Asia is a suitable regional concept for Australia's strategic needs. Indo-Pacific Asia can best be understood as an expansive definition of a maritime super-region centred on South-East Asia, arising principally from the emergence of China and India as outward-looking trading states and strategic actors. It suits Australia's two-ocean geography and expanding links with Asia, including India. This raises questions about Australia's ability to implement an effective Indo-Pacific stratey that must account for force posture, alliance ties and defence diplimacy, as well as constraints on force structure and spending. 

The concept is also not limited to an Australian perspective, and increasingly reflects US, Indian, Japanese and Indonesia ways of seeing the region. It also reflects China's expanding interests in the Indian Ocean, suggesting that the Chinese debate may shift towards partial acceptance of Indo-Pacific constructs alongside Asia-Pacific and East Asian ones, despite suspicions about its association with the US rebalance to Asia.

  • Rory Medcalf

In this article for the Australian Journal of International Affairs, the Lowy Institutes International Security program director Rory Medcalf argues that Indo-Pacific Asia is a suitable regional concept for Australia's strategic needs. Indo-Pacific Asia can best be understood as an expansive definition of a maritime super-region centred on South-East Asia, arising principally from the emergence of China and India as outward-looking trading states and strategic actors. It suits Australia's two-ocean geography and expanding links with Asia, including India. This raises questions about Australia's ability to implement an effective Indo-Pacific stratey that must account for force posture, alliance ties and defence diplimacy, as well as constraints on force structure and spending. 

The concept is also not limited to an Australian perspective, and increasingly reflects US, Indian, Japanese and Indonesia ways of seeing the region. It also reflects China's expanding interests in the Indian Ocean, suggesting that the Chinese debate may shift towards partial acceptance of Indo-Pacific constructs alongside Asia-Pacific and East Asian ones, despite suspicions about its association with the US rebalance to Asia.

  • Rory Medcalf