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The war in Ukraine has raised fresh doubts over the will and ability of European states to play a meaningful role in the Indo-Pacific. In the United Kingdom, there is a lively debate over the utility of its ‘tilt’ to the region, first announced in the 2021 Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy.

The defence component of this policy, which largely comes under the purview of the Royal Navy, has come under sustained flak from two sides. Some dismiss the tilt as ‘tokenistic’, a gesture strategy, and question whether the UK should invest scarce resources in a region so far from home. Others, meanwhile, worry that these naval deployments will distort the UK’s armed forces at a time when core interests in Europe are under threat.

In this talk, Dr William James of King's Centre for Grand Strategy will explore the rationale and efficacy of small or ‘token’ defence deployments – with a specific focus on the defence component of the Indo-Pacific tilt. He challenges the assumption that tokenistic deployments are always a strategically unsound idea. He contends that the naval effort in the Indo-Pacific – as currently constituted – will not cause undue strain on the UK’s broader defence efforts in the Euro-Atlantic.

Furthermore, and contrary to conventional wisdom, he will argue that tokenistic naval deployments can be worthwhile – so long as the objectives are clear, expectations are managed, and they are integrated with allied and partner navies.

This event is online.


Professor Christophe Jaffrelot

Christophe Jaffrelot is Avantha Chair and Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at the King's India Institute and also the Research Lead for the Global Institutes, King’s College London. He teaches South Asian politics and history at Sciences Po, Paris and is an Overseas Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was Director of Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po, between 2000 and 2008.

Dr William James

William James joined the Centre for Grand Strategy as an Ax:son Johnson Research Fellow in August 2022. He is also a Senior Associate of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre. William holds a DPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford.

Between 2018 and 2020, William was based in the United States as a research fellow at MIT’s Security Studies Program and at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center. In 2020-21, he was a non-resident Hans J. Morgenthau fellow at the University of Notre Dame.

Mauro Bonavita

Mauro Bonavita is a PhD student in the King's India Institute, with his research focusing on Indian foreign policy and the Indo-Pacific region. Mauro is a political scientist, he obtained his BA from the University of Genova and his MA in Geopolitics and Strategic Studies from the University Carlos III of Madrid.

Mauro has worked both in India and in Europe in the field of journalism, in the internationalization of Indian private universities, in exchange programs between Indian and European students, in the vibrant world of Indian start-ups.

At this event

Christophe Jaffrelot

Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology

William James

Research Fellow

Mauro  Bonavita

PhD student