June 17, 2024

Roundtable: Russia’s War in Ukraine and Asian Powers’ Positioning in the Indo-Pacific

On 7 June, the Japan Chair at ICDS hosted a roundtable discussion on how the leading Asian/Indo-Pacific states, particularly Japan and India, are positioning themselves to engage with the Baltic states and the European Union more broadly in the Indo-Pacific.

The seminar featured presentations by Mr. Tatsuo Shikata, a Visiting Researcher at the Kajima Institute of International Peace (KIIP) in Japan, and Dr. Jagannath Panda, Head of the Stockholm Center for South Asian and Indo-Pacific Affairs (SCSA-IPA). The roundtable was moderated by Dr. Elena Atanassova-Cornelis, Japan Chair at ICDS.

The seminar explored the dissonance among Asian states’ political stances on the Russia-Ukraine war. On the one hand, India and the states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), among others in the Global South, have chosen neutrality, dialogue, and abstention in multilateral forums. The objective of this stance is to secure their respective interests (e.g., energy, food, and weapons security) while also not souring historical associations and continuing outreach with the West. On the other hand, US treaty allies such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea have not only provided nonlethal military aid but also embraced the West’s hardline approach, including punitive sanctions against Russia as a means to protect national interests and territorial sovereignty. This hardened stance is also part of a growing trend in the Indo-Pacific towards strengthened defence capabilities due to the extant security conflicts in the region, including on the Korean Peninsula, in the Taiwan Strait, and in the China Seas.

The roundtable addressed the following questions:

  • How have Japan and India positioned themselves with regard to the Ukraine war? How different and/or exclusive are their respective perspectives on the security situation in Europe?
  • As Indo-Pacific partners, how do Japan and India expect the EU to act in the Indo-Pacific in the future? In which issue-areas do Japan and India see the most opportunities for collaboration with the Baltic states and the EU? What challenges do Japan and India expect the EU to face in terms of strengthening its role in the Indo-Pacific region?

What are the implications of the existing dissonance in political stances on the Russia-Ukraine war among Asian states for the liberal international order that “like-minded” European and Indo-Pacific partners aim to defend? How does this dissonance influence joint policies between Europe and Asia in response to what are perceived as growing “revisionist” trends in both regions?

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