By Vinny Davis*
“The Mediterranean is the ocean of the past, the Atlantic the ocean of the present, and the Pacific is the ocean of the future.”
John Hay (Former U.S Secretary of State 1900)
“Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress.’’ These words by President Obama will undoubtedly characterize the prospects of the strategic pivot, as diplomacy, trade and development would be employed as the key to American engagement.
The United States of America is all set to reap the fruits from the shifts in global geo-political dynamics to maintain the sustainable growth of its economy. The significance of the Asia-Pacific region for U.S national interests in the political, security, economic and diplomatic domains cannot be ignored. The foundation of the “strategic pivot” or rebalancing, launched four years ago, by the United States of America rests on the recognition that the major share of the political and economic history of the 21st century will be scripted in the Asia-Pacific region. By 2025, the Asia-Pacific region will account for almost half of the world’s economic output. The region accounts for more than 60% of the American exports, creating and sustaining more jobs in the industrial and service sectors of the economy. United States is building extensive diplomatic, economic, development, people-to-people and security ties in Asia-Pacific. This is reflective in the American engagement with the Asia-Pacific in its desire for a peaceful, stable and economically prosperous region – a vision shared with America’s Asian partners, as well. By utilizing ‘forward deployed diplomacy’ as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it, the United States has sought to provide reassurance of its lasting commitment, to cultivate an open, fair, stable and predictable political, economic, and security operating environment across a vast region spanning from India to the United States.
USA pivoting its strategies
“The strategic pivot” is rightly an ambitious and opportunistic foreign policy initiative of the Obama administration that strategises to engage itself bilaterally and multi-laterally in the region since 2009. The economies of the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly becoming important markets for U.S. exports of manufactured goods and natural resources. Moreover an ever-larger proportion of global trade is passing through the region’s sea lanes, emphasizing the continued need for the United States to help maintain maritime security and promote regional stability. The economic and strategic implications of the rebalancing strategy are well-etched as the future prosperity and security of U.S. is interconnected with the prosperity and security of the Asia-Pacific region. The success of any policy depends on effective mechanics employed. Both militarily and non-military engagements in the region is touted to be vital for the prosperity and security of U.S and Asia-Pacific. There also a need to upgrade the existing alliances with more stronger ties with the countries- Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia, Thailand, and Philippines. U.S would be hoping to gain more leverage from its diplomatic maneuvers. This includes U.S having an ambassador to ASEAN, Lower Mekong Initiative, Asia-Pacific Strategic Initiative, joining East Asia Summit (2011), participation in the Pacific Islands Forum, cooperation with the multi-lateral institutions(in the realm of public health, energy, trade, investment), besides having Trade Representatives including involvement in trade promotion bodies such as the Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and U.S. Trade and Development Agency for maximizing their financial engagement with the region. The mutual benefits of cooperation in the field of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and rescue with U.S support can tremendously boost its strategy. United States can secure the convergence of India’s ‘‘Look East’’ strategy with its rebalance strategy to increase the joint U.S.-India cooperation with ASEAN and other allies and partners. For example, a U.S.-India-Japan trilateral could be very effective in addressing a range of regional issues. All these engagements lend reliability to U.S as a major player in the region. Yet, outrightly excluding China from the rebalancing can put at stake the success quotient of the policy. The Bilateral Investment Treaty (2013) if materialized fruitfully can be prudential in this regard.
The resolve of the Department of Defense is noteworthy, as it acted with pace more coherently to rebalance resources than its far smaller civilian counterparts. This was manifested in the plans to move new assets into the region including 2,500 Marines in Darwin, Australia, an additional army battalion in South Korea, 2 missile defense destroyers to Japan, up to 4 Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore, increased troop rotations in the Philippines and enhanced defense cooperation with Vietnam, Malaysia and others. This under-resourcing by the civilian components in all likelihood would project the rebalancing as only a military strategy to contain China in the region. Inadvertently this may limit the willingness to deepen cooperation and coordination with the United States. The rebalance can only be viable if there is an increased civilian engagement, strong diplomatic partnerships, co-existing with an empowering U.S Business enterprise. Thus constructive diplomatic engagements and public diplomacy, effective economic statecraft, renewed partnerships in the region, together with a transformed role in the multi-lateral institutions, mobilizing civil society and aiding in the efforts to improve human rights records is bound have strategic implications as far as the rebalancing is concerned in the regional architecture.
As Senator John Kerry rightly remarked, “Foreign policy is economic policy”, the U.S foreign policy tactic would be determined so as to tread the path of a dual strategy of commercial diplomacy and economic engagement. Though there would be institutional, bureaucratic, cultural, political impediments in the implementation process of the rebalancing strategy, the United States in its articulation of the elements of the rebalance, should make clear that the policy is about broadening U.S. engagement, not containing China. The countries in the region face myriad number of challenges ranging from maritime & security concerns, and territorial disputes, to nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, climate change, transnational crime, trafficking etc. The rebalance seeks to expand economic growth, ensure regional security, and improve human welfare for the benefit of all, not for the detriment of one. However, a failure to adequately deploy U.S. civilian resources to the new global economic center of gravity will undermine the stated goals of the rebalance policy and is likely to affect the greater interests of the United States in the long run.
* Author is Research Assistant at CPPR
 The White House, ‘‘Remarks by President Obama to the Australian Parliament,’’ November 17, 2011, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/17/remarks-president-obamaaustralian-Parliament.
 United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Senator John Kerry Opening statement at Nomination hearing to be U.S Secretary of Statewww, 3 January 2013, http://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/chair/release/senator/john-kerry-opening-statement-nomination-hearing-to-be-U.S-Secretary-of-state