Japan holds the G7 Summit - Focus on Indo Pacific
Lalit Joshi

The Group of Seven (G7), an informal forum of the world’s leading industrialized countries--Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States--is also attended by representatives of the European Union. At the summit meetings the heads of government hold candid discussions on global challenges and have dealt effectively in the past with issues requiring any swift resolution.

Japan assumed the Presidency of G7 Summit convened on 26 and 27 May this year at Ise-Shima in Mie Prefecture which is viewed as spiritual home of Japan. The G7 represents only 11 per cent of the world’s population but its share of the economic output is 33 per cent when adjusted for purchasing power, underlining its importance for the global economy1. These countries are also important global trading partners from where one third of all exports worldwide come and 35 per cent of all goods and services imported have a G7 destination2. The Group is committed to promoting democracy, rule of law, economic stability, sustainable development and human rights.

Although not a regional set up, an intricate security scenario in the Indo-Pacific has naturally brought to fore the prime concerns of the region during discussions. In his welcome message Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hoped to discuss the situation in Asia-Pacific region with other G7 leaders. A slowdown of global economy, terrorism, surge of refugees and unilateral changes to the status quo through the use of coercion are challenges affecting the peace and prosperity. The G7 members must take a global perspective to provide the most appropriate roadmap for solving these challenges with a clear vision”3.

The Indo-Pacific geopolitics continuum is transforming rapidly. China’s growing assertiveness for control of the East and South China seas matched with its economic and military prowess that is lacking sufficient transparency has impacted the region’s environment the most and has contributed towards passing of a new security law by Japan. China views the legislation as provocative and sees a militaristic Japan capable of harming its interests.

In preparation for the G7 Summit meeting, elaborate discussions were held during Foreign, Finance, Agriculture, Information and Communication Technology, Energy, Education, Science and Technology and Environment Ministers meetings of G7 countries in the preceding weeks. After the Foreign Ministers meeting a separate statement on Maritime Security has been issued besides the regular joint communiqué, considering the intensity of differences surfacing among the countries in the China Seas. “We are concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas, and emphasize the fundamental importance of peaceful management and settlement of disputes. We express our strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions, and urge all states to refrain from such actions as land reclamations including large scale ones, building of out posts, as well as their use for military purposes and to act in accordance with international law including the principles of freedoms of navigation and over flight4”.

The G7 has called all states to pursue peaceful management and settlement of maritime disputes in good faith and in accordance with international laws, internationally recognized legal dispute settlement mechanisms, including arbitration as provided under UNCLOS.

President Obama in fact combined the G7 meeting with a visit to Vietnam with which the US normalized full diplomatic ties in 1995. He announced lifting of arms embargo to engage Vietnam resourcefully. His trip is therefore being looked as reiteration of US ‘rebalance’ doctrine. ‘Big nations should not bully small ones. Disputes should be resolved peacefully”, he said, without naming China. Mr Obama also visited Hiroshima, one of the two Japanese cities on which the US dropped atomic bombs in 1945. This gesture will hopefully revitalize the push for global nuclear disarmament and focus on North Korea’s nuclear programme. The US is clearly building new partnerships with emerging powers in the region. It will hold the first joint military training with South Korea and Japan next month focused on dealing with missile launches from North Korea.

India too has backed international norms on the freedom of navigation in China Seas in view of critical importance of the sea lanes of communications for regional energy security, trade and commerce which underpins continued peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. It supports effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and early conclusion of the negotiations to establish a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea by consensus and have decided to hold regular close consultations on the issues related to maritime safety and security of sea lanes of communication.

The G7 Ise-Shima Summit is the first summit held in Asia in eight years. Being the host country, Japan has led the discussions. Coinciding with Japan’s security as well as economic focus and concerns in the region, the G7 is holding outreach meetings with heads of other Asian countries, ie Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea. Asia, as the growth center is steering economic growth of the World and will like to gain from G7’s advanced technologies, innovation, rich culture and traditions. The chairpersons of the UN, OECD, ADB, IMF and the World Bank are also in attendance. China, meanwhile, has accused Japan of “attempting to take advantage of its G-7 summit host status and draw more ‘allies and sympathizers’ to isolate China”5.

The Environment ministers of G7 leaders discussed climate change challenges building on the outcome of Conference of the Parties (COP) 21. Given significant changes to the international energy landscape, including low oil prices and geopolitical uncertainty, ensuring energy security remains a pressing issue for the international community. The framework also touched on the need to pursue new global goals to ensure sustainable development, adopted at UN summit in September last year.

The G7 education ministers stressed that education is an investment for the future and that it has played an essential role throughout the ages. The Health Ministers considered strengthening the response to public health emergencies such as Ebola and ensuring the provision of lifelong healthcare services, from maternal, newborn and child health, through to non-communicable diseases and aging, in the pursuit of universal health coverage (UHC).

The latest G7 Summit has once again highlighted the existing critical geo political and geo strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region. No one is willing to blink at the moment and consolidation of own interests is the priority. With intermittent warning signals originating from Japan, China, US, ASEAN and other interested parties for air, land and sea lanes violations, the situation can spin out of hand any time. Self-restraint, resolution of disputes through discussions and mutual respect will be required in ample quantity to keep the region peaceful.


  1. Source: World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) data.
  2. Source: World Trade Organization (WTO) data.
  3. PM Sinzo Abe in his opening speech on Japan’s assumption of Presidency of G7, 2016 Summit Meeting
  4. Joint statement at the end of G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Hiroshima.
  5. China’s official Xinhua news agency

Published Date: 28th May 2016, Image Source: http://www.g7germany.de
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

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