Singapore: India today said it has the strength and conviction to stop the spreading scourge of radicalisation because it has an “ideological answer” to the menace.
Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar, in his remarks at the Inaugural Session of Indian Ocean Conference here, said the world must recognise India’s critical role in both the quest for prosperity and the existential struggle to eliminate what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described “terrorism as the gravest threat since World War II”.
“India’s dual ability to emancipate the Asian economy in partnership with those who seek a better life; and its determination to confront today’s merchants of death, will determine whether the 21st century belongs to Asia,” Akbar said.
“India has the strength and conviction to stop the spreading scourge of radicalisation because India also has an ideological answer to this menace, for we offer the template of a democratic polity and modernity to counter regressive jihadism and terrorism,” he said.
Addressing the session here via video conferencing, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Indian Ocean Region is “perhaps the major bright spot in an otherwise difficult global economic environment”.
“In modern times, the Indian Ocean Region has also seen the unfortunate effects of colonialism. Today it is, undoubtedly, the most promising engine for reviving the global economy,” she said, adding that the importance of the Indian Ocean resonates far beyond its shores.
Asserting that securing peace and stability in the Indian Ocean is a matter of “high priority” for the Indian government, Swaraj said, “the best illustration of this high priority was the tour of Prime Minister Modi in March 2015 to Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka and his vision for the Indian Ocean which he called ‘SAGAR’ or Security and Growth for All in the Region.”
“In Hindi, the word SAGAR means the ocean and entails a five-pronged approach. This involves: – enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories and interests; deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral; promoting collective action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy, terrorism and emergent non-state actors.
“Working towards sustainable regional development through enhanced collaboration, including through the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA); and engaging with countries beyond our shores with the aim of building greater trust and promoting respect for maritime rules, norms and peaceful resolution of disputes,” said Swaraj, who could not attend the conference as she had to travel to the Vatican as the leader of the Indian delegation at the ceremony for canonization of Mother Teresa.
Swaraj stressed that India has shown commitment to working with its littoral neighbours to fully develop the Blue Economy, develop India’s coastal and island territories, and link the hinterlands.
In fostering such cooperation, we have a preference for regional frameworks, the most notable being the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Swaraj said.
“It is important that security concerns do not thwart these efforts at making the Blue Economy a driver of 21st Century growth. The Indian Ocean remains the most prone area to non-traditional security threats such as natural disasters, maritime terrorism, illegal fishing, and trafficking of humans, weapons and narcotics,” Swaraj said.
“We are, therefore, focusing our efforts on developing an architecture that strengthens the culture of cooperation to effectively combat transnational challenges across the Indian Ocean, including those from non-state actors,” she said.
Akbar, in his remarks that the conference that was attended by Sr Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan among others, said, “Prime Minister Modi knows his mind; he recognises the dimensions of both challenge and opportunity. He is the leader that India needs at this swivel moment in our individual and collective fortunes”.
“He has reached out with his Act East policy; and he has no illusions about the threat from terrorism and its malevolent sponsors, who seem to be unaware that they are committing strategic suicide,” Akbar said.
The real dynamism of India as the Pivot Power comes from its contribution towards the demographics of the region — its promise in both productive capacity and as an enormous market, Akbar said.
“This complements the traditional trade routes, and the rising aspiration of partner nations willing to work in harmony. The Phoenix Horizon is blessed with comity and cross-cultural influences that have grown into identities along the Indian Ocean over centuries.
“India both complements and protects rising Asia, with its powerful economies like those of Japan and China and, even more so, the growing capacities of the littoral nations across the Indian Ocean, to foster economic growth and stability through mutually beneficial cooperation,” Akbar said.
“I can say this for my country: only those who do not know India, underestimate India. India will tilt towards its deepest philosophical and historical traditions, towards peace and shared prosperity,” he added.
Asserting that India’s policy objectives are transparent, Akbar said it seeks measures that will facilitate the natural flow of peaceful inter-action and consequent growth through cooperation.
“We do not believe that regional confrontational attitudes are helpful in the ocean, or extended regions like the South China Sea, to give one instance. Law must be respected; after all, law preserves order,” Akbar said.