The Indo-Pacific: a ‘new’ region or the return of history?

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The term ‘Indo-Pacific’ has now entered the strategic lexicon to refer to strategic Asia. In contrast to the dominant themes in the scholarly literature that emphasise its ‘newness’ and conceive it as a maritime space, I argue that Asia's three sub-regions (South, Southeast, and Northeast Asia) and two oceans (Indian and Western Pacific) have constituted a single strategic system for the past two centuries (with the notable exception of the last three decades of the Cold War). Importantly, future regional order in this ‘larger Asia’ will emerge from the interdependence of continental and maritime power. Approaching International Relations as an historical social science, I construct a new historical narrative to explain region (trans)formation. This larger strategic Asia that first emerged around the time of the ‘great divergence’ between the West and the rest was created by a rising Britain through its Indian base. While Cold War geopolitics ‘split’ Asia into smaller sub-regions, the rise of China and India is reversing this split. The contemporary re-emergence of the Indo-Pacific allows the United States to create a regional distribution of power and a regional distribution of status (through discourse) that favours the United States in an increasingly multipolar region.




Pardesi, M. S. (2020). The Indo-Pacific: a ‘new’ region or the return of history? Australian Journal of International Affairs, 74(2), 124–146.

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