ASEAN leaders at the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Singapore this year. Photograph:( Reuters )
The Indo-Pacific concept has been gaining ground with the United States and India increasingly collaborating on it with a focus on ASEAN centrality.
In what can be considered a big boost to the Indo-Pacific concept, Thailand, the chair for ASEAN 2019, has said that the grouping is working on a common approach to the Indo-Pacific concept. Speaking on “ASEAN in 2019: Thailand’s Chairmanship” at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said, "ASEAN is working on a common approach on an Indo-Pacific concept that complements existing frameworks such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association or IORA."
The Indo-Pacific concept has been gaining ground with the United States and India increasingly collaborating on it with a focus on ASEAN centrality. The Thai FM also said, "New proposals regarding the regional architecture also need to complement existing frameworks of cooperation and the ASEAN-centred regional architecture."
Thailand takes over from Singapore which had been the chair for 2018.
Delhi and Washington consider themselves as the bookends of Indo Pacific and US recently changed the name of its largest naval commands--the Pacific command-- to Indo Pacific Command. Earlier this year speaking at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described India's view of Indo Pacific and said for New Delhi, "Inclusiveness, openness and ASEAN centrality and unity lie at the heart of the new Indo-Pacific. "
The comments by Thailand comes even as Indonesia was also focusing on Indo Pacific on the concept with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during her annual press statements on January 9, 2018 saying Jakarta "will continue to contribute in advancing a strong positive cooperation in the Indo-Pacific". Last year during Indonesian PM Joko Widodo's India visit, New Delhi and Jakarta adopted “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between India and Indonesia”.
China refuses to recognise the concept and usage of the term Indo Pacific since it believes it India centric term. The US has been announcing a number of infrastructures projects for the region to counter Beijing's one belt one road initiative. The recent APEC meet in Papua new guinea saw an open clash between US Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Both Bejing and Washington are trying to woo ASEAN and comments by Bangkok and Jakarta will be welcomed by both the US and India.