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A new voice to debate the most consequential region of our time

Professor Alessio Patalano

Professor of War and Strategy in East Asia

06 March 2023

On 31 January 2023, CGS hosted a speech by the Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, followed by an ‘in conversation’ with the Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State for the Indo-Pacific for the launch of its Indo-Pacific Programme. This was Foreign Minister Wong’s only public engagement during her visit to the UK, and an important speech, which received considerable media attention.

Her speech, and the subsequent discussion with Minister Trevelyan, touched upon the future of Australia-UK ties, reviewing the potential of agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and AUKUS in shaping the regional economic and security architectures.


The event highlighted three crucial points. First, there is a growing international need for authoritative research, culturally informed strategic fluency, and evidence-based policy input to engage with, and operate within, the Indo-Pacific. Second, a relevant understanding of this region demands an inclusive approach to the conceptualisation of the Indo-Pacific from a geopolitical perspective. In the case of Australia and the UK, maritime connectivity – both physical through shipping and digital through sea cables – represents the region’s most fundamental ordering principle, one that weaves together an economically dynamic and politically diverse space.


Third, the event also made apparent that, given the centrality of the Indo-Pacific to world affairs, for the UK it is essential to develop a strategic fluency to be able to maximise the effectiveness of its engagement with the region – however small or large the available resources.


The evening was a resounding success in that it offered insights into what the Indo-Pacific Programme (IPP) aims to do. The programme brings together the experience of the King’s Japan Programme (KJP) and the expertise at the Centre for Grand Strategy (CGS) and King’s College London’s (KCL) to develop the first UK university-based programme to foster cultural competency about this rich and diverse region and strategic fluency to address the relevance and impact of its security issues.


The IPP has three main areas of focus: maritime security, technology and defence, and climate change. Specifically, the IPP sets out to interrogate state on state tensions based on unresolved sovereign disputes and boundary delimitations, as well as structural competition unfolding from changes in regional maritime military balance, and the impact of technology on political influence and ambitions. Relatedly, the IPP engages with transnational global challenges unfolding from the consequences of climate change, from sea level rises to natural disasters, as much as resource mismanagement such as illegal and unregulated fishing, all of which greatly affect this part of the world.


In so doing, the IPP takes a different approach to area studies. It sets out to be a dynamic new voice breaking out of traditional geographical delimitations defining the study of particular part of the world. It innovates the field by linking the understanding of a regional space within the context of wider international geopolitically informed perspectives. As a result, this programme will help reshaping the understanding of the Indo-Pacific region internationally, and will help to redefine the UK’s role in the region and its global significance.


In particular, the IPP sets out to do so through the promotion of multidisciplinary teaching capacity, high quality research output, regionally focused policy impact, global network building, and tailor-made professional development.


The vision informing the IPP draws upon two fundamental objectives. Firs, the IPP seeks to build problem-solving cultural Competency. Through a culturally-relevant study of security issues from a range of different perspectives, The IPP is designed to empower an international community of students, experts, and practitioners with a unique ability to identify and solve specific problems by learning how to communicate, listen, and process perspectives from within the region and to articulate a specific view in a way that can be clearly understood by interlocutors in the region.


Second, the IPP intends to leverage the first objective to nurture security-focused Strategic fluency. The key to this objective is a bespoke understanding of the region’s history, as well as of the political, economic, and strategic dynamics that are relevant to engage with its security issues. It mobilises cultural competency for the specific objective of developing strategy. The IPP aims also to provide the intellectual frameworks to place security issues in the Indo-Pacific within a wider context, linking regional specificities to global trends.


The launch event was one remarkably rewarding moment to showcase what the programme can do and wishes to achieve. Stay tuned. CGS is ready to join the big debates over the most consequential region in today’s world politics.

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Alessio Patalano

Alessio Patalano

Professor of War & Strategy in East Asia

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