Asian Powers – traditionally would refer to powers located in Asia itself – but in today’s international strategic milieu one has to also consider global powers and extra-regional powers who may be located outside of Asia but have a major presence in this continent and impact the politics of the region.
Within this context then, the US cannot be ignored. US strategies for Asia reflected in the operationalisation of the pre emptive doctrine. Basically US wants compliant regimes in the Muslim World and its strategies are reflected in the BMEI proposal – which is also an expansion of the NSS of pre-emption.
In this context it has co-opted certain Asian powers as regional managers through strategic cooperation – especially in terms of BMD systems placements. Israel, India and Japan are the main regional managers. One major strategic objective is to contain China strategically and economically. These objectives are certainly shared by Japan and India – despite the growing economic cooperation between these states and China.
India: Sees itself as a major power – and sees itself not limited to South Asia – in fact Indian analysts now talk of Southern Asia and India is moving to make its presence felt in East Asia and westward beyond South Asia.
– to balance China, hence its military strategic cooperation with the US;
– to ensure adequate energy supplies for the future – hence its focus on pipelines and joint patrolling of the Indian Ocean with the US;
– to resolve conflicts in its immediate neighbourhood – hence the dialogue process with Pakistan – and to dominate South Asia but to get out of an image of a balancing relationship with Pakistan.
– To become part of the privileged by gaining permanent membership of the UNSC.
Pakistan: To expand its regional linkages and influence and play a role in the region commensurate with its power. Also a commitment to the Muslim World – sees itself as a leading player especially in the efforts to revitalise the OIC – also sees itself as a balancer to India in South Asia – will not bandwagon even if all issues are resolved.
Seeks to play a crucial role in the energy pipelines and as a gateway to Central Asia and the Middle East.
In terms of strategic concerns – issue of terrorism and increasing space for India to use LIC against itself.
Japan: Japan remains acutely aware of the uncertainties of the security environment in Northeast Asia. Japan is eyeing China’s rising power with increasing wariness and is seeking to alter the prevailing anti-military culture within the country. Japan’s moves towards greater militarization are now becoming more overt and a source of concern or the rest of the neighbourhood given Japanese history. A reflection of the new Japanese belligerency can be seen in its references to Taiwan as a central interest – while the Iraq war has provided Japan with the opportunity to establish a military presence far beyond its own region.
Japan’s own defence spending is also high. The government heavily subsidises a military industry of some 2,500 “civilian” enterprises, capable of producing advanced weaponry and the US is cooperating with Japan in the production of MD systems. What are its long term interests? These seem to be shifting with a greater interest in building up its strategic presence despite the US military umbrella. This is reflected in its desire to seek a permanent seat on the UNSC – reflecting a desire to move away from low-key approach to strategic issues to a more pro-active power role.
China: China’s major preoccupation has been to strengthen itself economically and to resolve its border disputes peacefully. China has sought to engage its neighbours more openly and since the mid-1990s, Beijing has reached out and established more than 15 “strategic partnerships” with major bilateral and multilateral partners, with more than half of them in the Asia-Pacific region. China sees their importance as a means to expand its regional influence. In some cases, these arrangements have moved beyond symbolism to deeper, sustained, and institutionalised relationships, China and Russia signed a 25-article “friendship treaty” during the Jiang-Putin summit of June 2001, and their recent Joint military exercise is also a symbol of their growing ties in future.
The North Korean issue, unless resolved will threaten China the most.
Energy security is another vital interest for China and it sees Central Asia as a major energy supplier for the future.
Russia: Although Russia realizes that its influence has declined sharply in relative terms viz. the US and other regional powers, like China, but it would like to be part of any East Asian security order. Russia, therefore, tends to play a more active role in the 6-party North Korean talks. Similarly, Russia is working on reinvigorating the CIS, and is contemplating linking economic assistance to CIS countries – especially in the form of subsidized energy supplies – to their allegiance to Kremlin foreign policy. At the same time, Russia is attempting to strengthen multilateral security cooperation in the CIS territory through the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation), which could effectively fight security threats within the CIS territory under the Russian leadership. Similarly, the strengthening of SCO along with China, is an attempt by Russia to fight security threats related to separatism, terrorism etc. in Central Asia, and to counter growing US interests and activities in Central Asia and the Far East.
Regarding the Middle East, Russia intends to play a bigger role in the Quartet on Middle East Peace Process, and has sought an observer status in the OIC to create a better understanding with the Muslim world, and to coordinate foreign policy on global and regional issues, including the UN reforms, with the Muslim world.
Russia has two important tools of potential influence in the region. Firstly, Russia’s far eastern energy resources are of great interest to China, Japan and more distant markets in the region and beyond, including the US. Russia, with its huge untapped hydrocarbon resources in Eastern Siberia can effectively employ them to alter the behaviour of other countries in favour of Russia. Secondly, Russia’s military sales remain another prospective sector, which fulfils the needs of many countries, and Russia, through provision of the state-of-the-art weaponry, and through technology transfer agreements and future joint ventures, especially with India, could employ sufficient influence on the recipient countries.
Iran: Iran’s primary interest is to come out of the international isolation it has been suffering from since the Islamic Revolution. Lately, the countering of the hostile US policies has also figured prominently on the foreign policy agenda of Iran. Experiencing a high unemployment among its youth, Iran is desperate to secure foreign investment. At the same time, the country also needs foreign markets to export its enormous hydrocarbon resources. The main strategy it has evolved in pursuance of its interests is to foster close relations with big powers in the region. Besides Russia, it has cultivated close ties with China and India. It has struck huge energy deals with the two major powers in the region. The strategy is likely to pay off in more than one ways – economically as well as politically. Chinese opposition to any US plans to take Iran to the UNSC over its nuclear programme is the case in point. It has also sought to improve its ties with other players in the region, with which it have had problematic relations in the recent past. It is improving its relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. It has considerably improved its relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan also. It has also manoeuvred to bring about a friendly government in Iraq – its arch foe under Saddam Hussein.