Asia has come to Europe. To the NATO meeting in Madrid. They did Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, who were present at a summit for the first time. So was China, in another way, by direct allusion in the Strategic Concept that will define the main lines of transatlantic security in years to come. The string of qualifications for the People’s Republic was varied and polychrome: coercive, opaque, malicious, confrontational, are some of the adjectives used. Hence, the great novelty was not so much the inescapable condemnation of Russia, but rather the inclusion of China for the first time and the rapprochement of the four Asian democracies.
NATO’s projection towards Asia owes much to Shinzo Abe, the former Japanese prime minister assassinated on Friday. A “deeply disturbing” crime (in the words of Antony Blinken), such as an assassination in times of transition into the unknown.
Abe led a paradigm shift in world geopolitics with the vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” embodied in the Quad, the security dialogue between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, of which he was the architect and promoter. Concerned about the growing militarization of China and its imperial yearnings, he presciently understood that peace rests on the defense of national sovereignty. And this, in turn, depends on security, which is never stronger than when alliances are forged with like-minded partners.
He directed his first steps towards attracting regional heavyweight India. It was before this Parliament that in 2007, and paraphrasing the Hindu thinker Vivekananda, he presented the perspective of the confluence of the oceans: “different streams, which are born in different places, mix their waters in the sea”, he declaimed. The vision of a wider Asia had just taken shape.
Initially, the proposal had little success, in part because of fears of Beijing’s reaction. But gradually countries and organizations joined: France, Germany, ASEAN, the EU… The vision of the Indo-Pacific has been acquiring a ubiquitous presence until reaching Madrid: “developments in the region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security” , includes the Strategic Concept. The pandemic and invasion of Ukraine have acted as great catalysts.
A nationalist and internationalist, Abe knew how to alternate thorny issues such as claiming Japan’s right to self-defense —not forgetting the controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine— with a tenacious defense of multilateralism.
Today, the largest geostrategic projects, the New Silk Road and the Indo-Pacific strategy, are vying with each other to win supporters. Not even those who prioritize neutrality can avoid it. That is the case of Sri Lanka. Indebted (largely to China), bankrupt, and courted by Delhi and Beijing. A scenario that will probably be repeated in other countries of the region. @evabor3
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