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Analysts often use the military-derived term “VUCA” — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — to explain the perplexities of present times. If there is one geographic construct that could personify VUCA, it is the Indo-Pacific. My attempts to coax a definition of “Indo-Pacific” out of experts have resulted in a range of answers, from the creative “its Hollywood to Bollywood” (from the western United States to western India) to the evasive “how would you define Asia-Pacific?” and expansive “includes Africa, as the Indian Ocean touches East Africa.”

Beyond the complexities of trying to define the Indo-Pacific, the Free and Open Indo Pacific (FOIP) is a strategic framework that is less about defining geography and more about shared values and interests. It is a concept that is still evolving, but as the name suggests it signals a tectonic shift toward India’s immediate neighborhood and places critical importance on the maritime environment, and places Japan in the center as a key development partner.

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