By Nathalie Guibert and Brice Pedroletti

Posted today at 2:51 p.m., updated at 4:09 p.m.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time when videoconferences are replacing many diplomatic summits, the meeting of four foreign ministers, who came especially to Tokyo, on October 6, testified to a desire to make an impression. As part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, the United States, India, Australia and Japan met to discuss strategy in the Indo-Pacific space, facing the Chinese giant.

At the end of this meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarked on a vast tour of Asia – less than a week before the US presidential election on November 3 – first to India, then to Sri -Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia and Vietnam. With a mantra hammered everywhere: the defense of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The “Indo-Pacific”, which extends the “Asia-Pacific” – concept in vogue of the end of XXe century – to the Indian subcontinent and the ocean that surrounds it, is a pivotal region of the world, the current center of gravity of maritime trade and growth. If each country gives a different definition, the Indo-Pacific has established itself, since the end of the 2010s, as a geopolitical marker. Scrutinized by chanceries and staffs, it is the subject of seminars, governmental doctrines and minilateral summits, while relying on a slew of military exercises.

High level tactical maneuvers

At the beginning of November, frigates and helicopters from the American, Australian, Japanese and Indian navies trained together in the Bay of Bengal, as part of the “Malabar” exercises. Marked by the return from Australia, these high-level tactical maneuvers are the first carried out by the four naval forces of the Quad, after a test balloon in 2007. From November 17 to 20, the American aircraft carriers Nimitz and indian Vikramaditya, flagship of the New Delhi fleet, must then meet alongside Australian and Japanese ships in the western part of the Indian Ocean, off Goa.

India, Australia, Japan and the United States began the strategic naval exercise

Beyond the Quad initiatives, the Indo-Pacific concept now brings together multiple themes (technologies, environment, fishery resources, etc.) and from other states. France rallied to it “as a neighbor”, emphasizing its overseas territories and their gigantic exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – the second largest EEZ in the world. Germany itself published its guidelines for this region in early September (in a study available here in German), described as “The key to the configuration of the international order in the XXIe century ”.

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