Written evidence submitted by the Council on Geostrategy


The Council on Geostrategy is an independent non-profit organisation situated in the heart of Westminster. We generate new geostrategic thinking for a more competitive age. Consequently, we focus on an international environment increasingly defined by intensifying geopolitical competition and environmental crisis. Our vision is a united, strong and green Britain, which works with other free and open nations to compete geopolitically and lead the world in overcoming the environmental crisis – for a more secure and prosperous future.

  1. The authors have been analysing the Indo-Pacific for a number of years, particularly the role of European powers in the region. Their studies and history of working on the United Kingdom’s (UK) role in the Indo-Pacific leaves them confident in offering this evidence in support of the Defence Committee’s inquiry on ‘UK Defence and the Indo-Pacific’.[1]
  2. The Indo-Pacific has only recently become a common lexicon among international leaders and geopolitical commentators. It was popularised by Shinzo Abe, then Prime Minister of Japan, in 2007 to account for the emergence of a ‘broader Asia [that] takes shape at the confluence of the two seas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans’.[2] It reflects a changing international approach to diplomacy, economics, and security from the Indian to Pacific oceans.
  3. The UK’s Integrated Review – ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’ – of March 2021 heralded the UK’s formal embrace of the Indo-Pacific concept and recognition of the region’s growing importance.[3]
  4. The UK has a national interest in capturing economic opportunities in the Indo-Pacific. Economic growth in the region will bounce back after the adverse effects of Covid-19, and it will be home to some of the most productive economies of the 21st century. Post-Brexit Britain has more flexibility and time to engage these economies, and should ardently do so.
  5. The Indo-Pacific has also widely been claimed to be the new epicentre of geopolitical competition. It is where the ‘open international order’ is most under threat. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was identified in the Integrated Review as a ‘systematic competitor’ to the UK, and its economic heft, population size, military build up, and technological advancement is seeing it capable of exerting more influence on the international stage. It is a revisionist power with a desire to usurp American global leadership and subvert, even reconstitute, the ‘open international order’. As a key constructor and benefactor of this ‘open international order’, the UK has an interest in underpinning it. Ensuring the principle of ‘freedom of navigation’ is upheld throughout Indo-Pacific waters is essential, as is resisting the erosion of human rights and the sovereignty of states.
  6. The Indo-Pacific also acts as a calling for ‘Global Britain’ to demonstrate its capacity to have global influence. The new flexibility of the UK’s position on the international stage demands that it demonstrates it can promote British values, such as transparency, democratic accountability, and the freedom of the individual, at a time when these values are under threat, and others, such as the PRC, are promoting their own.
  7. Since the publication of the Integrated Review, the UK has become more embedded in the region’s economic and security architecture. It has further pursued stronger relations with key regional allies such as Australia, India, Japan and Vietnam, and was instrumental in forming the AUKUS group. It is also  now an Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) ‘Dialogue Partner’ and is in the final negotiations of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The UK has also continued to strengthen its relationship with its arguably most important regional ally, the United States (US).
  8. The UK ought to go further in strengthening its relationship with these organisations to realise its goals. Japan has shown a desire to become closer to the UK in strategic cooperation; the two could endeavour to sign a more formal defence arrangement. India and Vietnam have a tendency to ‘hedge’ in their foreign policy, seeing them cooperate with an array of partners, even the PRC; however, the growing assertiveness and subversion of international norms by the PRC means they also seek to embrace the UK, as well as its allies and partners.


  1. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or ‘Quad’, between the US, India, Japan and Australia provides another, arguably central, element of the Indo-Pacific’s architecture. The UK should carefully monitor the development of this group and attempt to join when a suitable time arises. Britain should be sensitive to the fact that certain members, notably India, will be resistant to drawing in outside powers. The UK could therefore propose something like Quad ‘Dialogue Partner’ status – similarly to ASEAN – as it attempts to increase multilateral engagement with the grouping's members.
  2. AUKUS brings ‘Global Britain’ to life.[4] It demonstrates the UK’s desire to use its power in maintaining an ‘open international order’. It builds on the defence agreement signed between Australia and Britain in 2013 and underpins the UK’s ability to creatively tackle geostrategic problems. It also greatly enhances the capability of the Royal Australian Navy to defend an ‘open international order’ in the region, which undoubtedly benefits British interests, and demonstrates that the UK will have an enduring commitment when it comes to Indo-Pacific security. It also demonstrates the willingness of the UK, as well as Australia and the US, to take matters into their own hands when it comes to defending the ‘open international order’ in the Indo-Pacific.
  3. Progress has been made since the announcement of AUKUS. The three members – Australia, the UK and the US – held two inaugural meetings in the first half of December 2021. There, they outlined the next steps in developing nuclear submarines for Australia and the actions that were going to be taken in the next 18 (now 15) months to achieve this goal as soon as possible. They also identified new areas of cooperation, expanding upon the already agreed areas of cyber capabilities, quantum technologies, additional undersea capabilities, and artificial intelligence.
  4. AUKUS acts as a chance for Britain to vitalise its defence industrial base, and therefore, elements of its economy. Its ability to develop advanced technologies that bolster Indo-Pacific security will be a test of its effectiveness. As will its ability to create, and uphold, a regulatory environment around key security issues. The addition of key intelligence allies such as Canada and New Zealand should be welcomed if AUKUS proves to be an influential force, as should the addition of Japan; the expansion of the group will also be a test of its effectiveness.
  5. The PRC’s desire to quell freedom of navigation in the South China Sea certainly acts as an operational barrier for the UK in the Indo-Pacific. As does it’s increasing, particularly economic, influence over more developing nations, who can subsequently find themselves severely indebted to or economically reliant on Beijing. Britain’s geography also acts as a barrier; reaching the Indo-Pacific requires extensive travel, and the UK’s distance from the region is an easy point of ridicule and condemnation for power’s wanting to resist the UK’s regional influence.
  6. The goals set out for UK defence as part of the Indo-Pacific ‘tilt’ are not only achievable, they could go further. The permanent deployment of HMS Tamar and HMS Spey is a welcome development, and aids the UK in achieving ‘permanent and persistent global engagement’ and to be Europe’s most integrated national presence in the Indo-Pacific by 2030.[5] AUKUS also demonstrates, and realises, the UK’s renewed commitment to Indo-Pacific security, and will foster further British integration into the region’s geopolitical architecture. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may set a precedent for the actions of revisionist, autocratic states, and therefore the invasion of Taiwan by the PRC should not be ruled out – even if it remains unlikely.[6] The UK needs to be ready to provide aid to, and enhance the capability of,  Taiwan in this event, which would severely undermine Indo-Pacific security.
  7. The successful deployment of Carrier Strike Group 2021 also assisted UK defence in achieving its goals. It demonstrated the interoperability of Britain’s naval power, and its commitment to the region’s security architecture. Furthermore, it demonstrated how most Indo-Pacific nations welcome an increased British military presence in the Indo-Pacific, and the lengths that the Royal Navy can, and will, go to to uphold the ‘open international order’.
  8. Balancing the UK’s defence commitments between the Indo-Pacific and Europe is certainly a task. Britain must not, however, see the two regions as distinct, as certain European and Indo-Pacific powers, namely Russia and China, pose the same threat to the ‘open international order’, no matter their location. The UK would do well to begin to view the region through an Atlantic-Pacific lens, and rally like-minded powers together across all regions in an endeavour to uphold the ‘open international order’.[7]
  9. The UK currently has a permanent joint operating base in Diego Garcia, a logistics facility in Singapore and further facilities in Brunei that together support Britain’s Indo-Pacific military presence. Establishing a larger and permanent base in the Pacific, though not necessarily needed from a military operational perspective, would, however, certainly enhance Britain’s presence in the region and confirm its durability. If Britain wanted to establish a base to counter the architecture that, say, the PRC is constructing in the region, it may need to place it in range of the PRC’s anti-access and area denial capabilities to actively deter. Another option may be for Australia to host a Royal Navy facility, perhaps in Perth or Darwin. More out of range of the PRC’s military systems, this base would be more secure, but its ability to deter may not be as effective.[8]



4th March 2022

[1] See: James Rogers, ‘European (British and French) geostrategy in the Indo–Pacific’, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, 9:1 (2013).

[2] Shinzo Abe, Speech: ‘Confluence of the Two Seas’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan), 22/08/2007, (found: 03/03/2022).

[3] ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’, Cabinet Office, 07/03/2021, (found: 03/03/2022).

[4] For more on AUKUS, see: James Rogers, ‘AUKUS: Strategic drivers and geopolitical implications’, Britain’s World, 27/01/2022, (found: 03/03/2022).

[5] ‘Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’, Cabinet Office, 07/03/2021, (found: 03/03/2022).

[6] Charles Parton, ‘Taiwan in the next decade: no war, but much tension’, Council on Geostrategy, 13/05/2021, (found: 03/03/2022).

[7] For more on the emergence of an ‘Atlantic-Pacific’ space, see: James Rogers and Alexander Lanoszka, ‘A “Crowe Memorandum” for the twenty-first century’, Council on Geostrategy, 02/03/2021, (found: 03/03/2022).

[8] For an overview of deterrence, see: James Rogers and Benjamin Tallis, ‘Bolstering NATO through British-German cooperation’, Britain’s World, 28/02/2022, (found: 03/03/2022).