India will never be an aggressor, but it will not hesitate to use its strength to defend itself, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in Seoul on Thursday.
Singh delivered the keynote address at the Seoul Defence Dialogue, a multilateral security dialogue on ‘Building Peace Together: Challenges and Vision’.
“Defence diplomacy is a key pillar of India’s strategic toolkit. Defence diplomacy and maintaining strong defence forces are two sides of the same coin,” Singh said. Though India has “never been an aggressor in its history nor will it ever be”, he said it “does not mean that India would balk at using its strength to defend itself”.
In his address, Singh said that “of the numerous security challenges that we face, the gravest is that of terrorism” and that “no country in the world today is safe from terrorism”. He pointed out that “India has been actively pursuing counter-terrorism cooperation bilaterally, as well as regionally, through regional forums and globally, through the UN and other international forums”, and “it is only through collective action that we will be able to disrupt terror organisations and networks, identify and check the perpetrators, and also take strong measures against those who support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists”.
World politics, he said, is in a “state of flux” and “this has aggravated global and regional challenges to international peace and security”.
He said that “new and emerging geo-political and geo-economic faultlines” have put globalisation under stress. “New and emerging technologies have also left an impact on the regional as well as global security environment. Technology too is open to misuse more than ever before… Our region is confronted with numerous traditional and non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, conflicts, transnational crimes, maritime threats, proliferation…”
The minister said that the “quest for common prosperity and security requires us to evolve a common rules-based order for our region, the Indo-Pacific region” and this order must be based on “sovereignty and territorial integrity and equality of all nations” with rules based on everyone’s consent and right of equal access for all nations to the use of common spaces on sea and in the air.
India has strengthened its cooperative engagements in the Indo-Pacific region “on the basis of the principle of ‘SAGAR – Security and Growth for All in the Region’”, he said. With ASEAN as its centre, Singh added, India advocates “an open and inclusive architecture for the Indo-Pacific region”.
Republic of Korea’s “spectacular progress” is an inspiration for India as it has become a leading global economy “while retaining your strong cultural identity, Singh said.
India has always supported efforts to being peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and “its denuclearisation through dialogue and diplomacy,” Singh said.
“The dawn of the Asian Century is nigh. It is up to us in Asia to make this a century of peace and development, a century of holistic socio-economic development,” the minister said, adding that “our rise” will depend on “how well we work together to build the foundation for our future, and how well we respect the principles of pluralism, co-existence and dialogue that always characterised us”.