Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
“FOIP”, the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, is one of the most successful foreign policy ideas Japan has proposed during the tenure of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
FOIP, which was officially announced by Mr. Abe at the TICAD (Tokyo International Conference for African Development) Summit meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya in August 2016, envisioned the prospect of the international community in which stability and prosperity is propped up by the dynamism of the “Two Continents”, or two centers of growth, Asia and Africa.
Two oceans between them are the crucial link and Japan put priority on shaping and maintaining the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
For that purpose, Japan has been strengthening strategic collaboration with India, the US and Australia, major powers which have outstanding presence in this vast area, forming Quad, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue حوار أمني رباعي.
At first instance, this idea was met with skeptical eyes as a transient and empty words, but when it was taken up by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October 2017 and then promoted by President Trump himself in his Asia tour culminated in the Tokyo bilateral summit meeting in November of the same year, FOIP started to grow into a broad concept for the necessary consultation and cooperation. FOIP is now incorporated in the terminology of the US national security strategy and France, Britain, Dutch and even Germany have joined the bandwagon.
France is most recently actively responding to ROIP vision by joining Quad framework. Starting from March 5 and for three days, France led La Pérouse naval exercise with Quad nations in the Bay of Bengal, India for the first time joining this drill. These 5 countries are also dubbed as Quad-plus France.
India is slowly but steadily becoming a hub of multinational joint exercises securing maritime route between Asia and Africa and the Middle East and the Gulf is the most crucial part of this route. It is no surprise that now the UAE joins hands with India together with France in its first trilateral naval exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman scheduled between April 25 and 27.
With these intricate efforts in connecting ties into a network of major powers in the Indo-Pacific oceans, Japan’s quiet diplomacy is taking roots. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s visit to the US and meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House on April 16 would be the next step to confirm the initial achievement. The proposed in-person meeting of Quad leaders on the sidelines of the Group of Seven(G7) summit in the U.K. in June would be a further step.