The Indo-Pacific Paradox: Traditional and Non-Traditional Security Concerns

July 12, 2023 Uma Shankar Sahu


The Indo-Pacific area, which stretches from the west coast of America to the east coast of Africa, has grown significantly more important geopolitically in the twenty-first century. Its vast territory includes a complex mix of nations, cultures, and a thriving economy. The Indo-Pacific has established itself as a major international centre for trade and security due to the region's proximity to important shipping lanes and critical waterways. Despite this, recent events show how dynamic and ever-changing the traditional and non-traditional security issues it faces are under the surface of its economic promise.

Traditional security concerns in the Indo-Pacific remain, evident in long-standing territorial disputes, unresolved conflicts, and the threat of weapons proliferation and military build-up. Ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, defined by recent clashes over disputed islands and China deploying a big number of armed marine militias in the region, in addition to a number of warships and other military assets, serve as an acute example of the region's complicated security situation. Furthermore, flashpoints on the Korean Peninsula and the India-Pakistan border show the unstable state of regional stability. Aside from these well-known concerns, the Indo-Pacific region faces an increasing number of non-traditional security issues, such as cyber threats, terrorism, transnational crime, natural disaster, and pandemics. Recent instances, such as large-scale cyberattacks on key infrastructure and the havoc caused by climate-related disasters, have highlighted the need of tackling these growing threats.

To better understand traditional and non-traditional security dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region, it is important to consider geopolitical, economic and historical factors. Furthermore, analysing the strategic interests and policies of major regional powers such as the United States, China, India, Japan, and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is crucial to understanding the evolving security landscape.

This article explores the types of traditional and non-traditional security threats in the Indo-Pacific, examines strategies to address them, and underscores the importance of regional cooperation.

Traditional Security Threats-

The Indo-Pacific region faces a number of traditional security threats that have grave implications for regional stability, peace and economic prosperity. These threats arise from historical tensions, unresolved territorial disputes and military build-ups, leading to complex security challenges. Understanding these traditional security threats is crucial to understanding the geopolitical situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Territorial disputes and maritime claims: Traditionally, territorial disputes in the Indo-Pacific and conflicting maritime claims, such as in the South China Sea, pose significant security challenges, but these disputes include competing sovereignty over islands, reefs, and sea areas, leading to increased tensions and the possibility of military conflict. The South China Sea, in particular, has been the focal point of regional disputes involving countries such as China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia with overlapping territorial claims.

  • Military Modernization and Power Projection: The military modernization efforts of various countries in the Indo-Pacific region have raised concerns about power relations and the potential for an arms race. Rising defence spending has the potential to generate a regional imbalance in military capability, increasing concerns about the balance of power among countries. Other countries may feel obligated to raise defence spending in response, escalating security rivalry. The advancement of modern weapons systems brings new capabilities and technologies that have the potential to alter an existing military balance. Missiles, stealth technologies, and cyber warfare capabilities can give a strategic edge, modifying deterrence and defensive policies. In the Indo-Pacific, naval forces play a critical role in establishing territorial claims, safeguarding sea routes, and projecting influence. Expansion of naval capabilities, particularly the purchase and modernisation of naval assets like as aircraft carriers, submarines, and surface combatants, has significant implications for maritime security and force projection. As countries improve their naval capabilities, competition for control of critical maritime regions heats up, thereby increasing the danger of maritime accidents and conflicts.

  • Proliferation and Arms Race: The presence of nuclear powers in the Indo-Pacific region, including China, India, and Pakistan, raises concerns about nuclear proliferation and the potential for an arms race. Possession and further development of nuclear weapons will affect the security dynamics of the region, resulting in a delicate balance of power. In the Indo-Pacific region, managing deterrence relationships and preventing nuclear proliferation are key challenges.

  • Cross-border Conflicts and Rebellions: Cross-border conflicts and insurgencies in the Indo-Pacific region are compounding traditional security challenges. Ongoing conflicts like Afghanistan affect the region and can affect neighbouring countries. These conflicts undermine stability, foster extremism, and pose security threats through the spread of violence and the cross-border movement of extremists.

  • Territorial Issues in the East China Sea: Territorial disputes in the East China Sea, especially the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands and Diaoyu Islands, have become traditional security threats in the Indo-Pacific. These conflicts include historical rivalries, competition for resources, and nationalistic sentiments. Rising tensions in the region could disrupt regional stability and have far-reaching implications for the Indo-Pacific security landscape.

Understanding and addressing these traditional security threats requires diplomatic efforts, confidence-building measures, multilateral dialogue and compliance with international law. 

Non- Traditional Security Threat- the Indo-Pacific region faces not only traditional security challenges, but also an increasing number of non-traditional security threats that require urgent response. These non-traditional threats can destabilize economies, destroy social cohesion and undermine regional stability. Addressing these challenges requires a thorough understanding of their nature, causes, and possible consequences.

  • Internet security: Cyber ​​threats are prevalent in the Indo-Pacific region, posing risks to governments, businesses and individuals, and cyber espionage, hacking and ransomware attacks are on the rise in the region. As the Indo-Pacific region becomes more digitally connected, the primary objective of the countries is to protect their critical infrastructure, sensitive data, and personal privacy from cyber threats.

  • Transnational Crime: Cross-border criminal activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling, and money laundering pose significant challenges to the Indo-Pacific region. Criminal networks exploit porous borders, weak law enforcement cooperation, and corruption to conduct illegal activities. These activities undermine regional governance, stability and human security.

  • Environmental degradation and climate change: The Indo-Pacific region is particularly vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate change. Sea level rise, natural disasters, deforestation and habitat destruction pose risks to coastal communities, biodiversity and food security, and these challenges include mitigating the impacts of climate change and sustaining sustainable development. A concerted effort is needed to facilitate development.

  • Pandemic and Health Safety: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of health security in the Indo-Pacific region. Epidemics, inadequate medical infrastructure, and limited access to vaccines and medical resources have severe impacts on public health and regional stability. Strengthening health systems and promoting regional cooperation are critical in fighting the pandemic.

  • Food and water security: The Indo-Pacific region faces food and water security challenges due to factors such as population growth, changing consumption patterns, water scarcity and disruption of agricultural production. Ensuring access to safe and sufficient food and water resources is critical to the welfare and stability of communities.

Dealing with Traditional and Non Traditional Security Threats-

Addressing traditional and non-traditional security threats in the Indo-Pacific requires a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach. A combination of diplomatic, economic, military and social measures is needed to ensure regional stability, peace and prosperity.

  • Diplomatic Engagement: Encourage diplomatic communication and negotiation to settle territorial disputes and conflicts in an orderly way. In order to ease tensions and preserve regional stability, emphasize the value of bilateral and multilateral dialogues, confidence-boosting measures, and preventive diplomacy.

  • Health Security Cooperation: Enhance regional cooperation in the area of health security to improve health systems, pandemic preparedness, and response capabilities. In order to successfully manage and lessen the effects of pandemics and other health emergencies, facilitate information sharing, collaborative research, and resource allocation.

  • Economic Integration and Development: Fostering measures for economic integration and development will help the region become more stable and prosperous. Encourage cooperation in infrastructure, trade, and investment to redress socioeconomic inequalities and lessen the causes of insecurity.

  • Improving regional cooperation: Promoting regional cooperation and dialogue is critical to addressing traditional and non-traditional security threats. Strengthening regional framework conditions and institutions such as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the East Asia Summit. Diplomatic efforts, multilateral dialogue, and confidence-building measures enhance trust, deepen understanding, and facilitate dispute resolution.

  • Institutional strengthening and capacity building: Building strong organizations and improving capabilities in areas such as law enforcement, cybersecurity, disaster management, and information sharing are essential to effectively addressing security threats. This includes investing in training, technology and cooperation mechanisms to ensure a coordinated response.

  • Compliance with international standards and conventions: Compliance with international laws, standards, and conventions is critical to addressing security threats. Respect for sovereignty, peaceful dispute resolution, and compliance with international frameworks such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea contribute to regional stability and security.

  • Sustainable development and resilience to climate change: Promoting sustainable development practices, investing in climate resilience, and addressing environmental challenges will contribute to the long-term stability and security of the Indo-Pacific region.

  • Comprehensive defensive Management: Maintaining a credible and balanced defence posture helps deter potential aggression and protect national interests while avoiding an arms race that could further destabilize the region. 


The Indo-Pacific region is a crucial geopolitical and geostrategic space facing a range of traditional and non-traditional security threats. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that combines diplomatic efforts, multilateral cooperation, economic integration, institutional strengthening, and compliance with international standards. Diplomatic engagement, including bilateral and multilateral dialogues, is essential for settling disputes and conflicts. Health security cooperation and regional collaboration are vital to strengthening health systems and effectively responding to pandemics and other health emergencies.

Promoting economic integration and development will address socioeconomic inequalities and lessen the causes of insecurity. Strengthening regional cooperation and institutions such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit fosters trust, deepens understanding, and facilitates dispute resolution. Building strong organizations and improving capabilities in law enforcement, cybersecurity, disaster management, and information sharing are crucial for addressing security threats. Compliance with international laws, standards, and conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, contributes to regional stability. Promoting sustainable development practices, investing in climate resilience, and addressing environmental challenges are essential for long-term stability and security. Maintaining a credible and balanced defence posture helps deter aggression while avoiding an arms race that could further destabilize the region.

Lastly, a comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses both traditional and non-traditional security threats is necessary to ensure regional stability, peace, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. By fostering cooperation, strengthening institutions, and investing in sustainable development, the countries in the region can effectively mitigate security challenges and promote a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.


Tertia, J., & Perwita, A. A. B. (2018). Maritime Security in Indo-Pacific: Issues, Challenges, and Prospects. Jurnal Ilmiah Hubungan Internasional14(1), 77–95.

Centre for Strategic, & International Studies. (2016, March 11). Tensions in the South China Sea explained in 18 maps. Business Insider.

Guest Blogger for Asia Unbound. (2020, May 20). Rising tensions in the South China Sea. Council on Foreign Relations.

Xue Gong, (2020). Non-traditional security cooperation between China and south-east Asia: implications for Indo-Pacific geopolitics, International Affairs, Volume 96, Issue 1,

Banerjee, S. & Basu, P., 2022. Strengthening Partnerships to Counter Non-Traditional Security Threats in the Indo-Pacific, OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION. India. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY Chinese threat in South China Sea increasing rapidly: Taiwan Foreign Minister Wu. (2023, 06 25). Retrieved from The Economic Times:

About the Author:

Uma Shankar Sahu is currently working as a Research Associate at Indic Researchers Forum


This Article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of the organisation.

Share this article: