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HomeNewsGlobal NewsTilting horizons: The Integrated Review and the Indo-Pacific – Report Summary

Tilting horizons: The Integrated Review and the Indo-Pacific – Report Summary

– This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Summary

LONDON, England – We are living in an ever more complex and difficult world. Instead of coming together in a peaceful and prosperous “new world order”, as foreseen after the cold war ended, we are fighting for our conception of freedoms and to protect our alliances and the rules-based system that underpins global rights and norms. We are in the era of deterrence diplomacy, and it is one where our failure to act to defend and enhance that which prevents and protects could have catastrophic consequences. To face these geopolitical challenges, the Government produced an Integrated Review combining security, defence, development and foreign policy in March 2021, then, responding to what it described as a “contested and volatile world”, it published a Refresh of that review in March 2023.

Both reviews, while stressing that the UK’s primary security focus is on the Euro-Atlantic area, also allocated a high priority (labelled a “Tilt” in the Integrated Review) to the Indo-Pacific region.

We welcome this focus on a region which is of crucial importance for the UK’s prosperity and security. The geopolitical and economic centre of gravity of the world is moving steadily eastward towards the Indo-Pacific, home to half the world’s people and producing 40% of global GDP, and which is at the forefront of trade diplomacy and technological innovation.

At the same time, the Indo-Pacific region presents serious security challenges, as it is at the centre of intensifying geopolitical competition with multiple potential flashpoints.

The overall strategy to take advantage of these opportunities and meet these security challenges adopted in the Integrated Review was cooperation in a range of policy areas and on different levels with countries in the region to defend UK interests by seeking common ground on which to cooperate.

A key element—though not enunciated until the Refresh—is the UK’s policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC), run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is built on three pillars: defend against security challenges from the PRC; align with other countries to encourage the PRC to comply with its international commitments; and engage with the PRC in areas of common and global interest like climate change and global health.

We welcome the long-term prioritisation of the Indo-Pacific region, noting that the Euro-Atlantic region remains the most acute geographic focus, and encourage the Government to ensure that this policy shift is consistent, sustained and meaningful in the long term, and that we have historic commitments to the Middle East. To effect this shift, it should provide sufficient resources and explain how these will be targeted, the objectives the Government seeks to achieve, and the criteria by which it will evaluate the success of the Tilt.

At the same time, we stress that this prioritisation should not be at the expense of other world regions in which the UK has long-term interests and responsibilities.

We welcome the Government’s diplomatic progress in the Indo-Pacific region following the publication of the Integrated Review, including the UK’s Dialogue Partner status with ASEAN and its accession to membership of the CPTPP. We also welcome the development of alliances like AUKUS. We recommend expanding these to include appropriate partners in the region and considering UK applications to join other groupings with whom our objectives coincide, like the Quad.

We recommend broadening and deepening cooperation with countries in the region, whether initially “like-minded” or not, in building resilience so that they are better able to withstand a wide range of challenges to their security.

In examining the UK’s relationship with three countries, Indonesia, Japan and Taiwan, we conclude that there is now a sound basis for further development in several crucial policy areas, and we recommend steps to be taken to make these mutually beneficial relationships even closer. However, the Government’s inability to set out clearly the long-term objectives and outcomes of the Tilt risks failing to meaningfully deter the risks to UK sovereignty from a more aggressive PRC, and the opportunities of greater engagement with the Indo-Pacific.

In striving to meet security challenges in the region, our priority is the maintenance of peace and stability. Defence of national sovereignty and democratic values is in no way “escalation”. Deterrence is aimed at preventing war. The past three decades have been marked by a failure of deterrence. We need to build renewed deterrence to defend the status quo and prevent wars, and not allow ourselves to be shamed or blackmailed by those seeking to undermine us into not making ourselves more resilient. Foreign policy cannot be solely in the remit of the FCDO.

The world has become more difficult, but that is no reason to retreat. The dangers we face are not grim inevitabilities, but challenges to be addressed together with our allies and other partners. Our foremost priority must be preventing conflict. That requires the creation of space for dialogue—with vocal disagreement. It means cooperation where there is no risk to our security. It means recognising that strategic competition is a natural part of our global ecosystem. But it also requires the UK to be able to set out red lines, from a position of strength, and that is only possible if the UK Government meaningfully embraces policies of resilience and deterrence.

Read the full report – Tilting horizons

Author: Foreign Affairs Committee

Related inquiry: Implementing the Integrated Review: Tilt to the Indo-Pacific

Date Published: 30 August 2023

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