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Germany adopts Indo-Pacific policy, foreign minister Heiko Maas warns of ‘latent conflicts’

Germany on Wednesday adopted a policy for the Indo-Pacific centred round greater security and economic cooperation, with foreign minister Heiko Maas saying latent conflicts in the region “would have global repercussions were they to erupt”.

The policy guidelines, with the theme “Germany-Europe-Asia: Shaping the 21st century together”, were adopted by the cabinet since the shifting geopolitical power structures in the Indo-Pacific have direct impacts on Germany, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The economies of Europe and the Indo-Pacific are closely connected through global supply chains, while major trading routes pass through the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific. “If conflicts in the region adversely affect security and stability there, this has repercussions for Germany, too,” the statement said.

Speaking on the adoption of the policy guidelines, Maas said: “The Himalayas and the Malacca Strait may seem a long way away. But our prosperity and our geopolitical influence in the coming decades will depend not least on how we work together with the countries of the Indo-Pacific region.”

Without naming any country, Maas added: “We are watching with concern the arms race in the region, as well as latent conflicts which would have global repercussions were they to erupt.”

His remarks come against the backdrop of China’s aggressive actions in the region, including the months-long border standoff with India and deployment of military assets in the South China Sea.

The German foreign ministry noted that the Indo-Pacific wasn’t clearly delineated in geographical terms and was defined variously by different actors. For Germany, the Indo-Pacific is the “entire region characterised by the Indian Ocean and the Pacific”, it said.

It also noted that more than half the world’s population lives in countries around the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and recent decades have witnessed the rapid growth of countries such as Vietnam, China and India, with the region accounting for almost 40% of global GDP.

“There are many fields in which Germany wants to work more intensively with the countries of the region, be it to strengthen the rule of law and human rights or to enhance exchange in the cultural, educational and scientific spheres. The security-policy sector plays a special role in this context,” the foreign ministry said.

Economic relations too are being expanded through EU free trade agreements with additional countries in the Indo-Pacific and the aim must be to “avoid unilateral dependencies by diversifying partnerships”, it said.

Maas further said, “We are sending a clear message today: The Indo-Pacific region is a priority of German foreign policy…Our aim is to strengthen our relations with this important region and to expand our cooperation in the areas of multilateralism, climate change mitigation, human rights, rules-based free trade, connectivity, the digital transformation and, in particular, security policy.”

Germany wants to help shape the order in the Indo-Pacific so that it is “based on rules and international cooperation, not on the law of the strong”, he said.

“Stability in the region is of vital importance to us in economic terms, too: we are a trading nation, and as such our prosperity depends directly on freedom of trade and of shipping routes, many of which pass through the Indo-Pacific region,” he added.

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