Carrying the message that the Indo-Pacific region should be about building communities, not about confrontation, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command participated in a panel discussion in New Delhi today as part of the Raisina Dialogue, an annual multinational conference geared toward issues facing the global community.
Navy Adm. Philip S. Davidson joined Navy Adm. Sunil Lanba, the chief of India’s naval staff; Navy Adm. Christophe Prazuck, the chief of France’s naval staff; Navy Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of Japan’s joint staff; and Army Gen. Angus J. Campbell, the chief of Australia’s defense staff, on the panel.
The United States recognizes the changing dynamics in the region, Davidson told panel moderator Yalda Hakim, and that is why the name of its regional command changed from U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The name change “articulates much of what President [Donald J.] Trump put out in 2017, that the future for prosperity — not only for the United States, but all nations of the region — is resident in the Indo-Pacific, and the name change is to help support that vision and certainly describes what responsibilities the headquarters has,” he said.
Davidson said the greatest capability the United States brings to the region is the unmatched network of allies developed since the end of World War II.
“Most importantly, the capability set that I think must be displayed and put in the battlespace is the alliances and partnerships that we are all capable of,” he said. “As we look back … it has been allies and partners that have come together in times of crisis, not to conquer others, but to liberate them. We have proved time and time again that a strategic partnership and set of alliances will triumph for the good of global stability.”
The allies do work together, Davidson said, noting that the United States has worked with Japan, France, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and others in the South China Sea to assert the rights of all nations to access these crucial sea lines of communication.
The ‘Quad Alliance’
The panelists were repeatedly asked about military aspects of the so-called “Quad Alliance.” An outgrowth of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, it features India, Japan, Australia and the United States. “The multilateral nature of alliances and partnerships enables much more combat power,” Davidson said. “The United States has a strategic partnership with India that advanced greatly last year.”
The United States is a treaty ally of Japan and Australia.
There is no formal military partnership, the panelists said, and it is not an Indo-Pacific NATO. “It’s a growing relationship, which is robust,” Lanba said. “It will only grow as time goes by.” The Quad is “a burgeoning relationship rooted in some 25 years now,” Davidson added, “and we look forward to building it in the future.”
Some see the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy as a containment strategy for China. “It is advocacy for free nations in terms of security, values, political systems and the freedom to choose their own partners,” Davidson said. “As we look back on the rules-based order over the past 70 years, it has delivered a level of peace and security that has lifted billions out of poverty in all our nations. It is an important part of the international order. And it has been underwritten in many respects, by the combat credibility of not only the United States forces, but the forces represented here on the panel. I think that’s incredibly important to sustain as we move forward.”