People standing near large boulder (Courtesy of Gaurav Saini)
Scholars from the Indo-Pacific region visited India last year for a meeting of the Indo-Pacific Circle (IPC), which is addressing the region’s challenges. Above, IPC scholars visit Krishna's Butterball in Mamallapuram, India. (Courtesy of Gaurav Saini)

More than 100 young scholars in the Indo-Pacific region are working together to address pressing challenges, expand a sense of regional identity and build a better future.

Through meetings, op-eds, podcasts and journal articles, members of the Indo-Pacific Circle (IPC), formed in February 2022, debate solutions to challenges ranging from maritime security and nonproliferation, to food security, the climate crisis and public health.

We “told them that you are free to discuss whatever you want,” IPC Fellow and Operations Lead Gaurav Saini told ShareAmerica, highlighting the open debate essential to the IPC.

IPC Steering Committee Member Happymon Jacob told the group’s launch event last year that the IPC seeks “to generate ideas, networks, and debates from within the region that will contribute to shaping narratives on the Indo-Pacific.”

People sitting on stage and talking (Courtesy of Gaurav Saini)
IPC members attend a 2022 conference in Chennai, India. Recent IPC meetings have addressed topics including inequities in access to vaccines. (Courtesy of Gaurav Saini)

The Indo-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s people and nearly two-thirds of the global economy. The United States works with partners to build an Indo-Pacific that is connected, prosperous and secure. The U.S. State Department provided a grant to support the IPC’s launch.

IPC scholars are early and mid-career professionals between 25 and 45, and come from countries that include Australia, India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, among others.

Saini, an India-based foreign policy and conflict resolution expert, said that since IPC scholars hail from across such a diverse region, they will naturally disagree. The IPC provides a forum for voicing diverse perspectives, identifying priorities and forging solutions.

Considering local perspectives is essential to advancing collaboration across the broader Indo-Pacific region, Saini said. “It’s not enough to simply say these are international norms,” he said. Even when people disagree, they are able to bring unique perspectives.

The “objective is to keep a platform going that is able to make people feel comfortable while discussing” challenging and complex topics, Saini added.

People talking while framed by doorway (Courtesy of Gaurav Saini)
Scholars from the Indo-Pacific region visit the DakshinaChitra Museum near Chennai, India, on the sidelines of a 2022 conference. (Courtesy of Gaurav Saini)

The Council for Strategic and Defense Research and the Centre for Policy Research, both India-based policy think tanks, founded the IPC. Recent IPC meetings have focused on vaccine distribution inequities, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on regional collaboration, and on relations between Australia and Japan, two members of the Quad partnership, which also includes India and the United States.

Saini says conversations also develop organically and that a sense of regional identity is emerging among IPC members. Connections and relationships formed through the IPC will help the group members and the Indo-Pacific navigate future challenges or crises, he said.

“We wanted to build a sustainable platform for discussion on nontraditional security issues without imposing any conditions on what could be discussed,” Saini said. The IPC, he added, “gives a voice to” the people of the Indo-Pacific region.