India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday stressed the need for recognizing that a very substantial portion of India’s interests now lie to the East of India, beyond the Indian ocean and into the Pacific one.
Addressing the Dean, Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University and a distinguished gathering in Thailand, Dr Jaishankar said, “Only those whose mindsets are built around spheres of influence and who are uncomfortable with the democratization of world affairs will dispute the Indo-Pacific today, he said while delivering a talk on the theme ‘ India’s Vision of the Indo Pacific.’’
It is worth noting that the Chulalongkorn University is associated with great Indian nationalists, including Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore.
A career diplomat, Jaishankar said, “. The economic reality of globalization was that we are not merely more regional but actually much more active beyond our region in the search of markets and resources. This is especially so for major economies whose footprints have grown steadily, often in an overlapping manner and economically the separation of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean as distinct compartments looks less and less tenable. We are quite visibly in each others’ proximity and to pretend otherwise is really not realistic.’’
Jaishankar said that the Quad is the most prominent plurilateral platform that addresses contemporary challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific. "We are confident that the entire Indo-Pacific region will benefit from its activities. And that is validated by the growing recognition of its importance in the international community. If there are reservations in any quarter, these stem from a desire to exercise a veto on the choices of others. And possibly a unilateralist opposition to a collective and cooperative endeavours.''
The minister said that the separation of the Pacific from the Indian ocean was a direct outcome of American strategic dominance since 1945."The re-positioning of the US, the rise of China as also of India, the greater external engagement of Japan and Australia, the wider interests of South Korea and the broader outlook of the ASEAN itself have all contributed to this transformation.Some of it is also driven by our collective concerns for the global commons. It is no longer feasible for any one country to assume all the burdens. A more collaborative outlook that transcends the orthodoxy of earlier theatres is the need of the day. At the end of the day, this is about recognizing the realities of globalization and the consequences of re-balancing.”
He said that India considers Indo-Pacific as a region that extends from the Eastern shores of Africa to the Western shores of America. This is an increasingly seamless space that is home to more than 64% of global population and which contributes over 60% of world’s GDP. About half of the global trade happens through the maritime trade routes in this region. Over the years, this region has seen strong and sustained economic growth spreading across the Pacific rim, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Gulf region and the East and Southern Coast of Africa.
Jaishankar said that three decades ago, India made a strategic correction to the East that was responsible for the rapid flowering of our cooperation with the ASEAN. Originally, it was contemplated as an economic measure, with trade and investment at its core. Over the years, India’s interaction expanded well beyond the ASEAN to cover Japan, Korea and China, and in due course, Australia as also other areas of Pacific Islands for example.
He said, “ The facets of cooperation also increased, they now cover connectivity in various forms, people-to-people ties, and more recently, defence and security. This maturing of what we were doing to the East of India in our own terminology, we call it as moving up from Look East Policy to Act East Policy. Our Indo-Pacific vision builds on India’s Act East Policy, a policy that I have explained and the doctrine of what we call SAGAR. SAGAR is an Indian word for ocean, and is an acronym for Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) and this was articulated by our Prime Minister in Mauritius in 2015.''
He said, "We envisage a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, one which is built on a rules-based international order, sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment, freedom of navigation and over-flight, unimpeded lawful commerce, mutual respect for sovereignty, peaceful resolution of disputes, as well as equality of all nations.’’
He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) at the 14th East Asia Summit (EAS) held in Bangkok in November 2019. “Let me make clear that India envisages the ASEAN to be at the centre of the Indo-Pacific, both literally and substantively.” The minister said that India is is willing to work with everyone in the region to take forward the IPOI. Countries in the Indo-Pacific and infact countries beyond the Indo-Pacific even in Europe have announced their vision or guidelines or their outlook for the Indo-Pacific. He said that India’s approach towards Indo-Pacific under the IPOI looks at establishing a safe, secure and stable maritime domain.
The minister drew attention to the in-principle decision to initiate the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).He said that another interesting effort is the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative that concentrates on maritime safety, IUU fishing and consequences of natural disasters. “While the Indo-Pacific has a strong maritime connotation, there are continental developments which also have a direct bearing on its future. I refer here, amongst others to the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway that has the potential of creating a completely new axis of economic activity in Asia,’’ he said.
Describing Thailand as a civilizational neighbour and an economic, political, maritime and increasingly, a strategic neighbour, Jaishankar said that one has to only look back at history,to appreciate the longstanding closeness of our people and traditions.
The minister added that India-Thailand cooperation is actually best symbolized by the King after whom this University is named because King Chulalongkorn had paid a Royal visit to India in 1872 and subsequently in the year 1915. We were also, thereafter honored to receive another Royal visit by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), the founder of this University. “This University is associated with great Indian nationalists, among them Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. They fought in their time for the identity and interests of Asia under much more difficult circumstances.''
He said that Thailand is a key ASEAN state and the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. "Our time-tested relations are poised to move to the next level. We are marking the 75th year of our diplomatic relations since Thailand was among our earliest partners of our independent era. India looks forward to work closely with Thailand for its active participation in the implementation and progress of our vision in the Indo-Pacific.'' the minister said
Jaishankar ended his speech by seeking the support of the Thai government, its people, institutions and the Thai younger generations for constructing a mutually beneficial partnership and ensuring that there is peace, progress and harmony in the Indo-Pacific.