Following its withdrawal from the European Union, the UK wants to shift its foreign policy focus towards the Indo-Pacific region, which it considers the “fast-growing geopolitical center of the world”. The move is seen as Britain’s attempt to re-emerge as a global power.
The UK has announced it is keen on “unlocking opportunities in the region” and rebuilding relationships with the world. The country has carried out a year-long review of its foreign policy, and will now turn its attention to nations such as India, Japan, and Australia which are recognized as the three most important powers in the Indo-Pacific region.
All three nations have different characteristics and maintain different dynamics with Britain and Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks to enhance ties with all.
On Tuesday (March 16), the UK unveiled its widely anticipated integrated review of security, defense, development, and foreign policy. The 100-page document outlines Prime Minister Johnson’s vision for the nation.
Johnson plans to “unlock opportunities in the region” with a visit to India in April. The British PM was scheduled to visit in January as the chief guest for India’s Republic Day function. However, his tour had to be called off in view of the Coronavirus-related health emergency back home.
The upcoming India visit will be Johnson’s first major international trip after Brexit. He has also invited India for the G7 summit scheduled for June this year although the latter is not a member of the G7 or the Group of 7. Japan is the only Asian nation in G7.
The China Factor
Asian giant China is a major stumbling block for the UK as the communist country does not like the presence of Western nations in its neighborhood.
Besides, the Johnson government is already under pressure from the ruling Conservative Party with regard to Beijing. The party is of the view that the government needs to take a tougher stance against China on issues ranging from Hong Kong, Uyghur Muslims to democratic rights.
China is recognized by the UK as an “authoritarian state”. According to the recent foreign policy review, China poses the “biggest state-based threat” to the UK’s economic security and a “systemic challenge” to the security, prosperity, and values of the nation.
The UK has already applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a trade agreement between 11 countries, including Australia and Japan.
According to analysts, Britain needs new trading partners, and in order to trade freely in any region, there need to be free and open trading routes. With China causing disruptions in international trade routes, the UK has to counter Beijing’s aggressive posture in the Asia-Pacific.
According to experts, this is the reason why the UK is sending its HMS Queen Elizabeth warship to these waters.
As per reports, the UK has already taken steps to strengthen security cooperation with several Indo-Pacific countries and is already working on building stronger relations with Japan and the members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA).
The FPDA refers to multilateral agreements between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.
Apart from enhancing relations with the major nations in the Indo-Pacific region, the UK is also maintaining military outposts in Brunei and a naval support facility in Singapore.