Indo-Pacific region guided by norms an article of faith for India: Foreign Secy
Against the backdrop of China’s assertive actions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, India has stepped up cooperation with its partners to oppose unilateral actions and protect the freedom of navigation and overflight across the Indo-Pacific.
India, France and Japan have to work with like-minded countries to ensure the Indo-Pacific region remains open and peaceful even as they focus on economic resilience and post-Covid-19 recovery, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Tuesday.
“An Indo-Pacific guided by norms and governed by rules, with freedom of navigation, open connectivity, and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, is an article of faith for India,” Shringla told a workshop organised by the Observer Research Foundation and the embassies of France and Japan.
Japanese ambassador Satoshi Suzuki, in his address, said his country perceives India as “the indispensable partner” in its efforts to achieve a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. He added this vision can’t be achieved by any single country, and requires collective efforts by like-minded states such as India and France with universal values such as freedom and inclusiveness.
French envoy Emmanuel Lenain said the Covid-19 crisis was a “great accelerator of both opportunities and risks” and there had been a “rapid change in the balance of power, including unilateral policies by some countries”. He added, “All this creates uncertainties and triggers the risk of non-cooperative policies.”
Against the backdrop of China’s assertive actions amid the Covid-19 pandemic, India has stepped up cooperation with its partners to oppose unilateral actions and protect the freedom of navigation and overflight across the Indo-Pacific. This includes cooperation through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad and trilateral meetings involving Australia, France, Japan and the US.
Shringla said India has mainstreamed the expression “Indo-Pacific” and encouraged others to “perceive and define the region in its full extent”. He added, “That is why countries such as Germany and Netherlands, physically distant but economic stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific, have released strategies for the region.”
India’s Indo-Pacific strategy was outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech in Singapore in 2018 as the “SAGAR” doctrine or "Security and Growth for All in the Region”. Shringla said this depends on “securing end-to-end supply chains in the region, no disproportionate dependence on a single country, and ensuring prosperity for all stakeholder nations”.
New Delhi also has the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative, which envisages building a rules-based architecture on seven pillars, including maritime security, disaster risk management, and trade connectivity, he said.
Shringla also said India and France have a highly developed maritime security partnership, which includes the joint naval exercise Varuna and cooperation to enhance maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean. At the same time, India and Japan work together on maritime security, and recently signed an agreement on reciprocal provision of military supplies and services that will promote interoperability between their defence forces, he said.
Lenain said a “strategic triangle” is being created between Paris, Tokyo and Delhi that is committed to a rules-based Indo-Pacific order, and the three countries stand as factors of stability and progress.
Suzuki said the three countries should also seek a partnership with other like-minded states such as the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) to build on efforts to ensure the region remains free and open.
“As the challenges in (maritime security and digital connectivity) go beyond geographical boundaries, international cooperation is essential, and region-wide trilateral cooperation should make a difference,” he added.