In an age when illiberalism appears to be gaining steam all around the world, one of the biggest geopolitical challenges for Asian democracies is to how best to deal with China's rise.

One of the answers to this conundrum is the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, which Tokyo is promoting as a strategy to maintain the international liberal order in the region.

But the much talked about idea is running into trouble as of late, as India, one of the key components of the strategy — has been displaying mixed feelings about it. Last month at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore, security experts were perplexed when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who chaired this year's forum — made a tepid speech and even refrained from mentioning the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, which is comprised of democratic giants like the United States, Japan, Australia and India.