As China is flexing its muscle in the strategically important Indo-Pacific, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday called for collective wisdom and concerted efforts to deal with the complexities of the region while tapping its full potential, to ensure a future marked by prosperity, security and inclusivity.
Making this assertion here while inaugurating the 13th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs’ Conference(IPACC), he also said it is in consonance with the ancient Indian ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam(the world is one family) and the G-20 motto ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future.’
Chief of Armies and delegates of 35 countries are participating in the three-day meet jointly organised by India and the US.
In his address, Army Chief Manoj Pande said India’s outlook for Indo-Pacific emphasises respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations. He also said India’s commitment towards positively engaging all stakeholders in the region has been unwavering and enduring.
Highlighting the geo-political significance and geo-economic weight of the Indo-Pacific nations, Pande said it is evident from the fact that the region accounts for 65 per cent of the world’s population, 63 per cent of the global GDP and 50 per cent of the world’s maritime trade. The Army chief said the region’s share in the global GDP, its share in merchandise market and maritime trade lend this region a pivotal stature in charting the world’s course in the 21st century.
Rajnath emphasised that the Indo-Pacific is no more a maritime construct, but a full-fledged geo-strategic construct, and the region is facing a complex web of security challenges, including boundary disputes and piracy.
He explained his vision for the region through a theoretical model by American author Stephen R Covey, which is based on two circles -- ‘Circle of Concern’ and ‘Circle of Influence’.
“There may be instances when the ‘Circle of Concern’ of different nations overlap with each other. International maritime trade routes passing through high seas, beyond the exclusive economic zones of any country, are relevant examples,” he said.
“This can either result in conflict between nations or they can decide to coexist by mutually deciding the rules of engagement. The concept of these circles underscores the importance of strategic thinking and prioritisation,” he added.
Rajnath pointed out that states must recognise that global issues involve multiple stakeholders and no one country can address these challenges in isolation. He stressed the need to engage with the broader international community and work collaboratively through diplomacy, international organisations and treaties to tackle common concerns within the overlapping ‘Circles of Concern.’
Rajnath termed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982 as a good example of such an international agreement that establishes the legal framework for maritime activities and addresses the issues arising from overlapping ‘circles of concern’ of different nations.
The Defence Minister termed the IPACC, Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) and Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum (SELF) as one of the largest brainstorming events of land forces in the region. These events provide a unique opportunity to build common perspectives towards a shared vision and build and strengthen partnerships in the spirit of collaborative security for all, he said.
He reiterated India’s stand for a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region in the pursuit of shared security and prosperity.
Rajnath added that India’s efforts towards building robust military partnerships with friendly countries underscore its commitment to not only safeguard national interests, but also address global challenges faced by all.
The Indian Army and the United States Army are co-hosting 13th IPACC, 47th IPAMS and 9th SELF, a three-day conference of Chiefs of Armies and delegates of 35 countries in New Delhi from September 25 to 27.
The conference will provide an opportunity for Army Chiefs and senior-level leaders from land forces, primarily of the Indo-Pacific region, to exchange ideas and views on security and contemporary issues. The core effort of the forum will be to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region through mutual understanding, dialogue and friendship amongst the littoral partners. Army Chief Pande said India’s vision for Indo-Pacific emphasises peaceful resolution of disputes, avoidance of use of force, and adherence to international laws, he said.
“While efforts by countries are converging towards a free Indo-Pacific, yet we are witnessing manifestations of interstate contestations and competitions,” the Army chief added. He further noted that “challenges we face transcend across borders and our response to them must factor in this”.