(From left) US Pacific Command head Admiral Harry Harris, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joe Dunford, defence secretary Jim Mattis and Admiral John Richardson at the change of command ceremony in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. Photo: AFP
(From left) US Pacific Command head Admiral Harry Harris, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joe Dunford, defence secretary Jim Mattis and Admiral John Richardson at the change of command ceremony in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. Photo: AFP

US renames strategic military division asIndo-Pacific Command

US defence Secretary James N.Mattis made the announcement at the change-of-command ceremony in Hawaii where Admiral Philip S. Davidson took charge of the command from Admiral Harry B. Harris

New Delhi: The United States on Thursday renamed its strategically important Pacific Command the US Indo-Pacific Command, a move that analysts say underlines the importance it attaches to the Indian Ocean but also inevitably confers importance on India given its dominant position in the region.

“Secretary James N. Mattis, Secretary for @DeptOfDefense, announces the renaming of U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to recognize the increasing connectivity between the Indian & Pacific Oceans and America’s commitment to the #IndoPacific!" said a Twitter post by the US Pacific Command.

Mattis made the announcement at the change-of-command ceremony in Hawaii where Admiral Philip S. Davidson took charge of the command from Admiral Harry B. Harris who has been appointed the US ambassador to South Korea. The Donald Trump administration has been using the term Indo-Pacific instead of Asia-Pacific in official documents already.

“For U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), it is our primary combatant command, it’s standing watch and intimately engaged with over half of the earth’s surface and its diverse populations, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from polar bears to penguins as Admiral Harris puts it," Mattis said in a clip posted on Twitter. The US PACOM is critical for “a region open to investment and free, fair and reciprocal trade, not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads," Mattis said in an oblique reference to China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road" policy for the region in an echo of India’s concerns vis-a-vis the Chinese project.

According to former Indian ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh, the renaming was expected over the last few years with “the international community referring to the region as the Indo-Pacific rather than Asia Pacific. It shows the US shedding an obsolete geo-political approach."

“The nomenclature reflects the Indian Ocean and Pacific regions as of strategic interest to the US but given India’s dominant position in the Indian Ocean region, it confers a certain importance on India which should be welcomed," said Mansingh. “The nomenclature shows a convergence of interests in the geo political and security spheres" between the India and the US, “a sign that the strategic partnership is flourishing," he added.

Close