Garima Mohan Testifying in Front of the U.K. House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee
Garima Mohan, fellow in GMF’s Asia Program, testified in front of the U.K. House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee on April 21, 2021, addressing India and the wider Indo-Pacific perspectives on China’s military and trade approach in the Indo-Pacific, as well as the United Kingdom’s role in the region.
Countries in the region are perceiving China’s economic and military power with increasing concern, including its challenging status quo in the South China Sea and in the Himalayas, its military inroads in Southeast Asia, and its expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean. While many countries see Chinese economic investments as an opportunity, there are also concerns regarding dual use investments, debt traps reducing the ability of smaller countries to maneuver against increase political influence, and finally economic coercion as noticed most recently in the case of Australia. The countries in the Indo-Pacific region have their own concerns regarding China, stemming primarily from China’s behavior in the region. The respective governments will align with the United States where their interests converge.
The Biden administration’s approach of building coalitions to cope with the multitude of China-related challenges is being well-received. At times, existing alliances and institutions are not up to the task of addressing challenges posed by China’s rise and other multifaceted issues, and as a result, issue-based coalitions are emerging in the Indo-Pacific. The Quad format is one example, as are various trilaterals between India, Australia, Japan, and France in various combinations. These coalitions will determine norms and debates around many challenges posed by China’s rise and will be particularly effective if they focus on providing alternatives and workable solutions.
Regarding the United Kingdom’s recent Integrated Review, its “Indo-Pacific tilt” was somewhat less pronounced than many expected, with the primary focus being on Euro-Atlantic security. Regional partners also perhaps expected more clarity on the U.K.-China relationship. However, the Integrated Review expertly highlighted the importance of partners like India and Japan as well as the difficulties and resource constraints any European country will face in engaging with a region as vast as the Indo-Pacific. Countries in the region clearly see a role for Europeans in the Indo-Pacific, particularly for the United Kingdom and France, which both have assets to send as well as a substantial diplomatic network and understanding of the region.