The US Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger has announced the expansion of the Indo-Pacific construct to now also include the eastern coast of the African continent at the Raisina Dialogue early this year. Given India’s westward interests the centrality of the Gulf in India’s energy security, the region as a major source of migrant worker remittances, and planned connectivity projects with like-minded partners such as Japan, this recalibration of the American conception (“stretching from California to Kilimanjaro”) stood as a belated recognition of the strategic importance of the North-Western Indian Ocean region.
Moreover, the US’ decision to now align its conception with India’s, underscores the centrality of the latter in the former’s calculus over the Indo-Pacific region. Although the American courtship of India as a strategic partner has been underway for the better half of the post-Cold War era, the same in the context of the Indo-Pacific construct has been nascent.
As a geopolitical matrix that seeks to marry the destinies of the Indian Ocean to that of the East China Seas – and the Western Pacific at-large, the cultivation of India as a “natural balancer” to China has assumed a maritime dimension. The same aims to oversee India’s rise as a regional goods provider in the Indian Ocean – towards rendering the US to “share the burden” with India by reducing “the strain on U.S. forces” deployed in the Western Pacific.