ASEAN is an important part of India’s vision of an open, inclusive and rules-based security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region where disputes are resolved through dialogue and not unilateral show of force, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said on today.
“Recently, we inaugurated our separate diplomatic mission to the ASEAN, to underline the importance we attach to this grouping as an economic and strategic entity,” he told delegates at the Shangri-la Dialogue. Singh, in his address, stressed that India has rapidly expanded engagement with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the past two decades into a full strategic partnership.
“ASEAN is an important part of India’s vision of an open, mutual, inclusive and rules-based security architecture in the Asia Pacific region where disputes are resolved through dialogue and diplomacy rather than by unilateral show of force,” Singh said. “We intend to meet the expectations of our friends within ASEAN who want India to play a more proactive role in helping address traditional and non-traditional security threats in Southeast Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific,” Singh said.
For most Asian countries to continue to grow rapidly, they will require assured access to energy resources and other commodities, he pointed out. “We must remember that most of the world’s shipping traffic including energy shipments traverse Asian waters. The same can increasingly be said of global value chains. Ensuring freedom of navigation in these waters is thus essential for all our security,” he said.
“For us in India, freedom of navigation on the seas has always been important since our history has been shaped by the constant maritime inter-flow of goods and people between our coasts and other countries in Asia and Africa,” the minister said. “We are determined to build on our maritime traditions, to foster security, cooperation, prosperity and safety from nature’s fury for all countries to which we are connected by the seas around us,” Singh said.
India has always opposed the threat or unilateral use of force to resolve maritime territorial disputes as this can disrupt normal trade flows threatening the economic security of all countries that depend on free-flow of marine commerce, he said.
“We always urge all parties to such disputes to abjure military solutions and rely on diplomacy and international maritime law to come to a mutually acceptable outcome,” said Singh at the dialogue whose main focus was the increasing level of disputes especially in the South China Sea.
Freedom of navigation and energy security is also threatened by piracy in crowded sea-lanes, he added.