The concept of an Indo-Pacific construct gained currency around 2010, in response to a growing and urgent recognition of the requirement for a collaboration of nations — around the Indian and Pacific oceans — to ensure cooperation between countries on matters of economy and regional security. Since then, the overarching objective for Indo-Pacific nations has evolved and is now focussed on ensuring shared prosperity for the countries in its ambit through an understanding of differing perspectives and strategic objectives, especially from the standpoint of economic and maritime security.
Shared prosperity is a big challenge considering that the two oceans connect Africa, Asia, Eurasia’s Pacific Coast, Oceania, and the Pacific Coast of the Americas, and are gateways for some of the world’s most developed nations and emerging economies, 24 in all. Over half of global trade traverses this maritime domain. It is also home to over 64% of the world’s population which account for 62% of global GDP. Consequently, the strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific construct is a product of the inter-connectedness and the inter-dependence of both oceans, as well as of globalisation and trade. Alongside, a key component pushing the Indo-Pacific narrative is the disruptive geopolitical and geo-economic tactics adopted by some nations.
Therefore, along with the Indo-Pacific region’s proven geo-political and geo-economic influence, the overriding necessity for these countries is to ensure an equitable and secure future. There is all-round acknowledgment within the group that prosperity for all can only be ensured through open and diversified sea lanes, as well as sustainable and transparent economic relations. For an alliance that is founded on the layout of two vast oceans, it follows that the most important aspect is ensuring a safe, secure, and stable navigable maritime space.
Also, for shared prosperity and safeguarding of economic activity, there is a growing realization that global supply chains need to be diversified. There is an awareness of the fact that the existing over-dependence on established, global supply chains has the potential to disrupt economic activity, throttle manufacturing capacities, and infuse fragility in most nations’ efforts to diversify supply chains. The diversification of supply chains is critical for managing the risks associated with the supply of inputs.
For India, the Indo-Pacific holds relevance in all aspects — political, economic, and social. A step forward was taken with the announcement of India’s Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI), announced November 2019 at the East Asia Summit, and with the launch of the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative in September 2020 by the trade ministers of India, Australia, and Japan. The first, IPOI, is aimed at furthering practical cooperation as an open, non-treaty-based global initiative and the latter supply chain initiative is aimed at ensuring a trustworthy, dependable, and reliable supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region.
Going beyond government, businesses can also contribute to the vision with the right facilitative and enabling environment. Dialogues between governments and businesses and among the business sections themselves, across the countries of the Indo-Pacific, will result in the fruition of the common goal of shared prosperity. In this context, a strong industry platform for creating a conducive economic climate and deepening business linkages is the need of the hour.
Keeping this in view, as a confluence of thought and action, the current summit is being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. CII has a historical and close interaction with all the sub-regions that make up the Indo-Pacific. Its footprint includes offices in Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and the US, as well as numerous cooperation agreements with like-minded industry bodies across the region. Its interventions through the various strategic dialogue platforms and CEO forums are extensive and help to drive bilateral industry cooperation. Given its extensive network, CII is setting the agenda through the Indo-Pacific Business Summit on a virtual platform, with the participation of 21 prominent countries of the Indo-Pacific region — India, Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Maldives, Mauritius, Malaysia, Mexico, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Chile, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, France, Sri Lanka, and Colombia.
The summit hopes to provide a platform for decision-makers from Indo-Pacific countries to meet and discuss with business leaders and policymakers; highlight the role of the states as the drivers of growth and partnership with countries from the Indo-Pacific region; identify and showcase opportunities for investment and partnerships by Indo-Pacific companies; identify sector-specific opportunities to increase trade and bringing stakeholders on a single platform; enable B2B meetings with sectoral focus, matching the requirements of businesses from the Indo-Pacific region with Indian companies and vice-versa; and, promoting business collaborations and facilitating technology transfers. The sectoral focus of the summit includes clean energy, physical and digital connectivity, development of robust supply chains, start-ups, healthcare, skilling, and climate change, and blue economy, among others.