The Regional Maritime Security Outlook 2022 focused on Strategic Outlook, Strategic Convergence, Military Competition and Non-State Maritime Security Threats. The Maritime Security Programme, IDSS, held the annual flagship conference on 18 and 19 January 2022. The virtual event featured four successive panels, fifteen speakers and moderators, and a small group of participants.
The panel on “Strategic Outlook” examined the prospects for deterrence and collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region in response to escalating inter-state rivalries. The panel on “Strategic Convergence” discussed the growing opportunities for international cooperation, including maritime-focused coalitions such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“the Quad”) and the Australia-United Kingdom-United States security partnership (AUKUS). The panel on “Military Competition” pondered the strategic imperatives behind the rise in Indo-Pacific defence expenditures and military capabilities. Finally, the panel on “Non-State Maritime Security Threats” reviewed the state actions to counter piracy, sea robbery, resource theft, illicit trade, and terrorism.
Cutting across these topics were some recurring themes, including geopolitical rivalries, ASEAN centrality, arms dynamics and non-traditional security issues. The prevailing observation emphasised the overcrowding of the Indo-Pacific maritime domain and the increasing military presence of the great powers, especially China and the United States. While ASEAN can promote the norms and rules, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific ultimately depends on the balance of power among the major players. Interestingly, it was suggested that arms dynamics, characterised by the arms acquisitions in China and Southeast Asia, could be a response to the proliferation of non-traditional maritime security threats in the Indo-Pacific.
Although the conference did not end with an optimistic maritime security outlook for 2022, it acknowledged one silver lining: that the escalating inter-state competition in the Indo-Pacific maritime domain mirrored the exponential growth in inter-state cooperation as well.