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Kishida’s Trip To Delhi Advances India’s Dual-Tripolarity Grand Strategy
The relevance of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s newly updated version of the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision to India’s dual-tripolarity grand strategy is that it proposes “multi-layered connectivity” between Japan and the three regions of ASEAN, Bay of Bengal-Northeast India, and the Pacific Islands. It’s basically Japan’s US-backed Indo-Pacific response to China’s Belt & Road Initiative, which can supercharge Indian-ASEAN trade by helping unlock the latent economic potential of the first-mentioned’s landlocked Northeastern States.
Some observers are under the impression that Japanese Prime Minister Kishida’s trip to Delhi signifies India’s tilt towards the US-led West’s Golden Billion in the New Cold War by dint of him unveiling an updated version of the late Abe’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) vision while there. Nothing could be further from the truth since this development actually advances India’s dual-tripolarity grand strategy of simultaneously positioning itself as a balancing force in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific.
The first-mentioned dimension is proceeding full speed ahead via the North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC) between Iran and Russia, which serves as an alternative valve from the West’s sanctions pressure upon Moscow and thus preemptively averts its potentially disproportionate dependence on China. As for the second, it envisages India helping ASEAN relieve pressure upon it by China and the US to take sides in this theater of their worldwide competition over the direction of the global systemic transition.
The scenario of Russia becoming China’s “junior partner” and/or ASEAN becoming the US’ would destabilize Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific respectively, thus decisively shifting the balance of influence in the New Cold War and putting massive pressure on India to choose a side instead of remain neutral. India’s ties with Russia are independent of any third parties but their trade can be supercharged by Iran via the NSTC, just like its ties with ASEAN are independent but their trade can be supercharged by Japan.
The relevance of Kishida’s newly updated version of the FOIP to India’s dual-tripolarity grand strategy is that it proposes “multi-layered connectivity” between Japan and the three regions of ASEAN, Bay of Bengal-Northeast India, and the Pacific Islands. It’s basically Japan’s US-backed Indo-Pacific response to China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), which can supercharge Indian-ASEAN trade by helping unlock the latent economic potential of the first-mentioned’s landlocked Northeastern States.
Delhi’s initial plan was for them to play a vanguard role in its Act East policy of ASEAN engagement upon the full completion of the Trilateral Highway with Myanmar and Thailand, but the US’ ongoing Hybrid War on Myanmar indefinitely hamstrung the viability of that vision. That raging conflict also makes it difficult to imagine the full completion the East-West and Southern Corridors across the Greater Mekong Subregion anytime soon either, which could in theory be financed by Japan per its new FOIP.
Considering the US-initiated Myanmar-centric obstacles to this dimension of its geo-economically driven dual-tripolarity grand strategy, cooperating with Japan in the ASEAN and Bay of Bengal-Northeast India regions as its “indispensable” partner per Kishida’s declaration is a complementary alternative for Delhi. This can enable India to make Japanese-supercharged integration progress in ASEAN to balance that which it’s already making in Eurasia due to Iran supercharging this process via the NSTC.
Analyzing the aforementioned dynamics in the rapidly evolving global systemic context can help readers better appreciate their importance for Indian grand strategy. International Relations are trifurcating into the US-led West’s Golden Billion of which Japan is a part, the Sino-Russo Entente that was just solidified by President Xi’s trip to Moscow, and the informally Indian-led Global South of which ASEAN is a part (with the exception of Golden Billion member Singapore and that bloc’s likely Philippine vassal).
In this situation, India’s Iranian-supercharged geo-economic engagement with Entente member Russia via the NSTC bolsters its hard-earned strategic autonomy in the New Cold War vis-à-vis the Golden Billion’s US leader. Likewise, India’s Japanese-supercharged geo-economic engagement with its fellow Global South members in ASEAN via Tokyo’s Bay of Bengal-Northeast India investments bolsters its hard-earned strategic autonomy in the New Cold War vis-a-vis the Entente’s Chinese economic leader.
Iran can be regarded as closely aligned with the Entente while Japan is a member of the Golden Billion, but their complementary facilitation of India’s geo-economically driven engagement with Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific helps it balance the New Cold War’s American and Chinese protagonists respectively. The resultant connectivity inroads that India makes in the Global South regions of Eurasia’s Central Asia-South Caucasus and the Indo-Pacific’s ASEAN bolsters its leadership credentials of this emerging pole.
This grand strategic outcome sustains India’s status as the kingmaker in the New Cold War by enhancing its capability to leverage rising leadership within the Global South with a view towards comparatively stabilizing the worldwide competition between the Golden Billion and the Entente. By masterfully multi-aligning in this creative way, India truly makes itself indispensable to those two de facto blocs while also reducing the pressure that fellow developing countries might feel from them to take their side.