In recent months, Germany has begun working on reducing its dependency on China in critical areas.
Both moves have been aimed at underscoring the country’s decision to participate in the American-led coalition in the Indo-Pacific whose aim is to check China’s assertiveness. The German air force chief Ingo Gerhartz made it clear that the aircraft visiting the Indo-Pacific will pass the South China Sea, but use civilian air traffic routes. The idea of the mission was more by way of signalling to Germany’s partners in the region, rather than making any statement to China, and their presence should not be construed as any kind of a threat to anyone, he noted.
The German air force chief Ingo Gerhartz made it clear that the aircraft visiting the Indo-Pacific will pass the South China Sea, but use civilian air traffic routes.
In August 2021, the German Navy deployed the frigate Bayern in the Indo-Pacific region. Unlike France and the United Kingdom (UK), Germany has no territorial holdings in the Asia-Pacific region. Further, the navy is quite small and has been content to function largely in the Baltic Sea. Indeed, it is only now trying to catch up with the needs of providing its share in protecting its sea lines of communications which go all the way through the Mediterranean and onwards to the Indo-Pacific. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Chinese actions in Hong Kong shifted the paradigm. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in May, Merkel’s successor, German chancellor Olaf Scholz denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine and called for an acceleration of the drive towards a clean energy future. On China, he said that while there was no need to isolate the country, at the same time, there was also no need to pander to the “claim of Chinese hegemony in Asia and beyond”. In recent months, Germany has begun working on reducing its dependency on China in critical areas. Confronted by Russian aggression, European countries have rallied together with the United States. Aware of the extent to which they are dependent on the US for security, the Europeans are now sharply boosting their defence spending and also rallying to the American-led cause in the Indo-Pacific. But even before the Ukraine war, the Scholz-led coalition had made it clear that it wanted to expand its partnership with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in May, Merkel’s successor, German chancellor Olaf Scholz denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine and called for an acceleration of the drive towards a clean energy future.<
Japan’s decision to enhance military spending was dictated more by China than the Ukraine developments. In November 2021, Japan declared that it would double defence spending to 2 percent of its GDP. This would help Japan overtake India to become the third largest defence spender after the US and China. At the same time, Japan and Germany have advanced steps toward closer ties amongst themselves. An important development here has been their first “2+2” dialogue involving their defence and foreign ministers in 2021. Germany is seeking to expand this to a summit level meeting involving their respective heads of government.But being where it is, Indo-Pacific issues have greater salience for Japan which has made it clear that any Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be an emergency and would merit a Japanese response. The US has welcomed this shift because, in its view, it is engaged in a strategic competition with China, and the cockpit of this contest is the Indo-Pacific. Having Europeans more engaged there, as well as in coordination with a key ally like Japan, is useful for its basic strategy of maintaining stability in the international order. Incidentally, in an article in The Tribune, former R&AW Officer and Author, Vappala Ramachandran credited Karl Haushofer, an early 20th century German scholar who had served as a military attaché to Japan, for the origin of the Indo-Pacific concept through a 1924 paper he had authored as “an organic and integral space primed for political consciousness.” This formed the basis of the 1940 pact that linked Japan with Germany and Italy which carved out zones of influence along the longitude 70 degrees east, putting India under the Japanese area of influence.
Having Europeans more engaged there, as well as in coordination with a key ally like Japan, is useful for its basic strategy of maintaining stability in the international order.
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Manoj Joshi is a Distinguished Fellow at the ORF. He has been a journalist specialising on national and international politics and is a commentator and ...Read More +