Tension in Indo-Pacific and Russia-Ukraine conflict are symptoms of an emerging global disorder
March 25, 2023


  • The article highlights the recent visit of Japanese PM Fumio Kishida to India to elevate the Indo-Pacific partnership and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow to consolidate the Eurasian alliance with the Russia as two elements of the unfolding geopolitical churn.
  • It also mentions how the world order established at the end of the Cold War has been put under increasing strain, which has caused important middle power ties to be reevaluated.
  • The conventional superpowers are losing ground, while newly emerged nations are threateningly using their influence, raising the possibility of a new Cold War.


  • At the height of tensions between the US and China over the South China Sea, India during the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 unveiled her strategy for the Indo-Pacific.
    • Indian PM spoke about freedom of navigation and open sealines, while emphasizing upon inclusivity and ASEAN centrality.
  • Five years later, Japanese PM Kishida chose India to unveil Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
    • This is because the regime change in USA (Biden after Trump) did not mitigate tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
    • Also, the conflicts in Eurasia like the Russia-Ukraine war sparked the divide between the West and the Russia-China alliance

Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) Strategy

  • It is a Tokyo-led initiative for greater security and economic cooperation that is geared toward curbing Beijing’s growing assertiveness.
  • It includes the following:
    • Japan’s assistance to emerging economies
    • Support for maritime security
    • A provision of coast guard patrol boats, equipment and other infrastructure cooperation.
  • It is in line with Japan’s new National Security Strategy adopted in December 2022 which includes the following:
    • Japan is deploying long-range cruise missiles to strengthen its strike-back capability, and
    • Using development aid more strategically in support of like-minded countries.
  • Kishida insisted that FOIP’s contemporary relevance goes beyond regional security concerns, and it will be the defining feature of the new global order.
  • He emphasised that the world is at a major inflection point today, and argued that both the Indo-Pacific conflict and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia are symptoms of an emerging global order.

Genesis of the FOIP Concept

  • Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe fathered the phrase Indo-Pacific, first in his 2006 address to the Indian Parliament, saying that the two oceans are “bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and prosperity”.
  • Later, in 2012, he emphasized “peace, stability, and freedom of navigation”. Thus, the concept of FOIP came into vogue.
  • While Abe initially looked at the Indo-Pacific from the prism of regional peace and prosperity, developments in the South China Sea led to the concept acquiring a greater security dimension in the last few years.

The Clash of Civilizations Thesis

  • It is a thesis that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.
  • The renowned political scientist Samuel Huntington noted in his book, “The Clash of Civilisations”, published in 1996, future wars would be fought not between countries, but between cultures.

The China Provocation

  • Huntington wrote his thesis focusing on Islam as China was still a subdued power then.
  • But the challenge that China poses today is much bigger than perhaps all other challenges that Huntington had predicted.
    • The world order, built by the Western powers in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939-45), is facing its severest challenge from China today and Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” has graduated into a “clash of world orders”.
  • The Western powers insist, rightly, that China intends to undermine the existing liberal global order and replace it with a more hegemonic and less liberal order dominated by itself.
    • For instance, China claims nearly all of the South China Sea which threaten the rights and interests of all nations that rely on or operate in this vital waterway.

Shaping of the post-War World Order and China’s Aggression

  • The post-War world order was primarily about “sovereign inter-state relations and a relatively open global economy, characterized by practices of inclusive, rule-bound multilateralism”.
    • This also formed the core of multilateral institutions like the UN.
    • As the decades progressed, the Western powers added concepts like democracy, liberalism and human rights to this discourse.
  • China was one of the beneficiaries of this world order in the last three decades. Its entry into the WTO in 2001 was premised on the commitment that it would adhere to the core principles of this world order.
    • However, as it grew in strength, and more importantly after Xi Jinping took over, it started to challenge that order.
  • On the other hand, Chinese leadership also portrayed to the world into believing that it is not undermining that world order, but protecting it.
    • For instance, in Moscow for a meeting with Putin recently, Xi Jinping claimed that China and Russia would together “resolutely defend the UN-centric international system and stand guard over the world order based on international law”.
  • But in reality, under Xi, China consistently violated with impunity all the core principles of that order.
    • It disregarded sovereign national boundaries in the name of historical claims and disputed the mandates of international agencies.
    • In the name of rejecting what it calls the US-led world order, China is thus implicitly trying to impose its own version inspired by Leninist principles (establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat).
  • This is based on traditional Chinese wisdom that looks at the conception of the universe as Tianxia, i.e., everything under the heavens with China as the central authority and all other states as tributaries.
    • China is Zhongguo (the Middle Kingdom) between the heavens and those tributaries.

Japan Renouncing China’s Notions

  • It is the hegemonic and authoritarian order of Zhongguo (China) philosophy that Kishida wants the world to reject.
    • Russia’s war with Ukraine and China’s support for Russia is seen by Kishida, like his Western counterparts, as a manifestation of that impending world order.
  • Kishida also insisted that India is critical to dismantling the Sino-centric order, but also lamented the “considerable discrepancies” in the attitudes across various countries toward Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

The India’s Way

  • India is committed to rejecting the authoritarian and coercive world order that China promotes.
  • As the world’s largest democracy, its commitment to freedom, human rights and peace also are above board.
    • For instance, it contributed significantly to upholding multilateralism through the UN and allied institutions.
  • In the debate over the clash of world orders, upholding India’s principle of strategic autonomy is important to ensure that the Global South has a significant role in shaping the 21st-century world order.


  • Though the just and open world order build by the West should be defended, but it must be remembered with Huntington’s words of caution where he noted the following:
    • “The widespread Western belief in the universality of the West’s values and political systems is naïve, and that continued insistence on such ‘universal’ norms will only further antagonise other civilisations.”