Where could and should this lead? Mutual assistance among the Indo-Pacific's middle players should expand, and should not be limited to bilateral cooperation."
New Delhi, Aug 8 - China's rising assertiveness and uncertainties about America's response to it are causing middle powers in Indo-Pacific Asia to look beyond traditional approaches to security, according to experts.
And, India, Australia, Japan and some ASEAN countries are expanding security cooperation with each other, according to a research paper by C. Raja Mohan, head of the ORF Strategic Affairs Programme, and Rory Medcalf, director of the Lowy Institute International Security Program.
The paper argues that enhanced security cooperation between Indo-Pacific middle powers should be extended to the creation of middle-power coalitions in the region to build regional resilience against the vagaries of US-China relations, said an ORF statement.
Raja Mohan and Rory Medcalf argue that India and Australia are well placed to form the core of middle power coalition building.
Areas of cooperation could include security dialogues, intelligence exchanges, military capacity building, technology sharing, agenda setting for regional forums and coordinated diplomatic initiatives to influence both US and Chinese strategic calculations.
This would build regional resilience against the vagaries of US-China relations, including against the extremes either of conflict or collusion.
It would also reinforce the multi-polar quality of the emerging Indo-Pacific order, encouraging leaders due to meet soon, it said.
The paper noted that Asian countries, that until just a few years ago were willing to bet on China's peaceful rise, are now preparing to hedge in the face of China's increasingly coercive behaviour against Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
To insulate themselves from the risks of strategic competition or collusion between China and the US, Asia's diverse 'powers in the middle' - including India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries - are adopting a range of strategies.
Strikingly, these nations are looking beyond formal regional multilateral institutions, alliance with the US, and traditional postures of non-alignment to cooperate with each other, the paper pointed out.
Where could and should this lead? Mutual assistance among the Indo-Pacific's middle players should expand, and should not be limited to bilateral cooperation.
A logical extension of this would be the creation of Indo-Pacific 'middle power coalitions': informal arrangements where the powers in the middle make it a priority to strengthen and help one another, working in self-selecting groups, or 'minilateral' arrangements that do not include China or the US, the paper said.