‘Partners in the Blue Pacific’ Initiative

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    • Amid China’s aggressive push to increase its Pacific sphere of influence, the US and its allies have launched a new initiative called ‘Partners in the Blue Pacific’.

    What is Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) Initiative?

    “Informal mechanism”:

    • It is a five-nation (the US and its allies — Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United Kingdom) “informal mechanism” to support Pacific islands and to boost diplomatic, economic ties in the region. 

    Closer cooperation:

    • It focuses on enhancing “prosperity, resilience, and security” in the Pacific through closer cooperation.

    Counter China’s aggressive outreach:

    • Through the PBP, these countries together and individually will direct more resources here to counter China’s aggressive outreach.

    “Elevate Pacific regionalism”:

    • The initiative members have also declared that they will “elevate Pacific regionalism”, and forge stronger ties with the Pacific Islands Forum.

     Guided by the Pacific Islands:

    • The Forum will seek guidance from the Pacific Islands on the PBP’s selection of its lines of effort and its flagship projects.

    Areas of cooperation:

    • The areas where PBP aims to enhance cooperation include “climate crisis, connectivity and transportation, maritime security and protection, health, prosperity, and education”.

    How is China trying to transform its ties in the Pacific?

    Security pact with Solomon Islands:

    • China signed a security pact with Solomon Islands which flagged serious concerns about the Chinese military getting a base in the southern Pacific, close to the US island territory of Guam, and right next to Australia and New Zealand.

    Quest to dominate shipping lanes:

    • Beijing’s quest to dominate crucial shipping lanes criss-crossing the region, rattled the US and its allies. 

    “Common Development Vision”:

    • The Chinese Foreign Minister undertook a multi-nation tour to push 10 Pacific nations to endorse a “game-changing” agreement called the “Common Development Vision”.
    • Aim is to expand law enforcement cooperation with these countries.

    What is being done by the US and its allies to counter China?

    Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF):

    • Before launching the PBP this month, the US and its partners started the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a trade-boosting play in the region with 13 nations as partners.

    Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII):

    • The G7 announced a plan — Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative by promising to raise $600 billion to fund development projects in low and middle-income countries.

    Why is the Pacific region strategically important?

    Demography:

    • Spanning a vast stretch of the globe from the west coast of the United States to the western shores of India, the region is home to the world’s most populous state (China), most populous democracy (India), and largest Muslim-majority state (Indonesia), and includes over half of the earth’s population.

    Defence:

    • Among the 10 largest standing armies in the world, 7 reside in the Indo-Pacific; and 6 countries in the region possess nuclear weapons.

    Trade:

    • Nine of the world’s 10 busiest seaports are in the region, and 60 percent of global maritime trade transits through Asia, with roughly one-third of global shipping passing through the South China Sea alone.

    Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

    • It is not a traditional trade agreement. Rather, it would include different modules covering “fair and resilient trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and decarbonization, and tax and anticorruption”. 
    • Countries would have to sign up to all of the components within a module, but do not have to participate in all modules.
    • The IPEF will not include market access commitments such as lowering tariff barriers, as the agreement is “more of an Administrative arrangement
    • It is being projected as the new US vehicle for re-engagement with East Asia and South East Asia.

    Source: IE