DPG Indo-Pacific Monitor

Indo Pacific Monitor

Date: January 01, 2022
The working visit by President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi on December 6, 2021 for the annual bilateral summit and the holding of the inaugural India-Russia 2+2 Dialogue brought to the fore India’s complementary strategies to manage its challenges in both the continental and maritime domains.  The summit joint statement provided an overview of the status of bilateral cooperation and future plans across eleven thematic areas.  It doused speculation about declining India – Russia relations, particularly in view of Russia’s growing entente with China.  The economic dimension of India-Russia relations continues to under-perform, and the two leaders were focused on addressing this aspect. 
US and Russian Presidents Biden and Putin held a virtual summit on December 7, as tensions between the two countries continued to mount.  Bridging these differences is critical for the US to focus on the Indo-Pacific.  Both sides appear to be exploring the boundaries of each other’s geopolitical tolerance rather than focusing on building common ground.
The US organised Democracy Summit on December 9 & 10, fulfilment of a campaign pledge by Candidate Biden, marked an attempt to discuss the challenges facing democracies on a global scale.  Organised around three themes - defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting respect for human rights - the virtual summit brought together more than 275 participants and the heads of more than 100 governments.  PM Modi highlighted India’s democratic credentials and offered to assist others with the organisation of democratic elections and transparency of governance.  The selection of invitees came in for adverse comment, with geopolitical interests seemingly determining the democratic credibility of some invitees while others more deserving were overlooked.  China and Russia mounted a counter-offensive, including an unprecedented joint op-ed by their Ambassadors in Washington D.C.  The current disarray in US politics did not provide an opportune moment for the summit, and time will tell whether it really advanced an agenda for the future.
China continued its focused outreach towards Africa by convening the 8th Forum for China-Africa Cooperation in Dakar and the formulation of a comprehensive action plan offering more than $ 50 billion in aid and the incentive of purchasing $ 100 billion worth of agricultural produce from Africa each year over the next three years.  An expansive keynote address by President Xi Jinping was followed by agreement on The Dakar Action Plan 2022-2024 and the Dakar Declaration of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation. 
A Summit between Presidents Putin and Xi on December 15 projected the image of a tightening strategic embrace, with both sides effusive about their bilateral cooperation.  President Putin committed to meeting President Xi Jinping in person for a Summit at Beijing in February 2022, while participating in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. 
The US National Defense Authorisation Act 2022 was passed by the Senate on December 15, 2021 and now awaits the President’s assent.  It authorises a total of $ 777.7 billion for national defense, 5% above the $ 740.5 billion in NDAA 2021, and expands funding for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, but offers little in the Indian Ocean. 
The month also witnessed articulation of five different Indo-Pacific perspectives, involving all four of the Quad partners.  First was the virtual interview of Kurt Campbell, the White House Indo-Pacific Coordinator on the “Indo-Pacific Operating System” on December 01.  Next came a keynote address by Dr S Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister, at the Fifth Indian Ocean Conference on December 4.  The third was the Policy Speech by Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on December 6.  The fourth was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s speech on “A Free and Open Indo-Pacific” in Indonesia on December 14.  The last was the Second Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture, by Dr Michael Fullilove of Lowy Institute, on December 24.  Commentaries on these articulations round off this month’s Indo-Pacific Monitor.