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Inaugural Address at the 10th Asian Security Conference

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  • Hon'ble Defence Minister, Shri A. K. Antony
    February 05, 2008

    Hon’ble External Affairs Minister, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Director IDSA, Shri N.S.Sisodia, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,

    I am glad to be present at the opening of the 10th Asian Security Conference.

    IDSA serves as a useful platform for frank interactions between experts - both military and civilian and the Government on security-related issues of national and international importance.

    Of late, the Asian region has acquired a unique centrality in global strategic affairs. The challenges for the Asian region - and indeed all the nations the world over are of a similar nature. Terrorism, nuclear proliferation and sectarian conflicts are some of issues that require our urgent and focussed attention.

    Today, the world has truly become a global village. Thus, security of nations cannot be restricted to narrow geographical and political boundaries.

    With increasing globalisation, it is often argued that the chances of the breakout of a conventional war are remote. All the same, we have to be eternally vigilant and ever-prepared for any eventuality.

    In recent years, conflicts have broken out between states and non-state players. Such conflicts are differently categorised as civil war, insurgency, ethnic conflict, irregular war, or even - terrorism. The nature of conflicts notwithstanding, it is the civilian population that bears the brunt of such conflicts. The traditional distinction between soldiers and the civilians is increasingly being obliterated, for both are targets for terrorists.

    It is well-known that no price is too high for the security of a nation. Global defence expenditure during the 1990s had registered a marginal decline. However, of late, global defence expenditure has registered a sharp upward growth.

    The world today realises that no nation can consider itself to be immune from terrorism. The lessons learnt elsewhere can prove to be useful in devising our policies. Similarly, other nations too can benefit from our experiences. Nations must devise ways and means to cooperate to effectively counter terrorism. The Indian policy makers will keenly look forward to these deliberations as they have implications for our own strategies. I also urge IDSA scholars to continue to pay attention to this phenomenon, on a longterm basis and generate ideas and policy options that are useful to decision makers.

    Increasing use of information technology will mean that wars in future will be hi-tech, intense, yet brief. The mobility and destructive capacity of weapons has gone up several times. Experts apprehend that with proliferation of technologies - particularly information technology, space technology, bio-technology, nanotechnology and genetic engineering will only multiply the lethal force of new weapons.

    Nuclear proliferation continues to be a serious challenge for mankind. I am sure that experts attending this Conference will deliberate on the future of the nuclear order, its relevance and implications for security of the Asian region.

    The emergence of non-state players is another grave challenge confronting all nations. These non-state players do not recognise any territorial boundaries. They utilise latest global communication and transport networks and rely on garnering international support. Their common objective is to disturb existing state apparatus, destabilise neighbouring states and create new states based on ethno-cultural identity. Most of these non-state players are not fighting for a national identity, or territory and have abstract notions of carving out a separate and unique identity of their own based on ethnicity, religious and tribal basis. According to estimates of Military Balance, out of the 343 non-state armed groups operating in the world, 187 groups operate in Asian region.

    India has been the target of disruptive elements for several years. Major powers of the world then believed that they would be immune to such elements and had, as such, little sympathy for our concerns. However, now all nations realise and accept the need for greater cooperation in effectively meeting such challenges.

    The conference will also consider another important issue that has a direct bearing on Asian Security in the 21st century - the generic issue of fragile states and nation building, with Afghanistan as a live case.

    Trends indicate that international efforts at nation building are faltering on many counts. This is a potentially dangerous situation. It is therefore only appropriate that this conference will consider the challenges posed by the recent developments in Afghanistan. The deliberations during the special session will address the questions such as - what is the assessment of major players regarding the future course of action in Afghanistan? What can be done to stabilise Afghanistan? I am hopeful that the Conference will come up with creative solutions for the well-being of Afghanistan,

    I have briefly referred to some of the principal challenges that Asia and other regions of the world are likely to face. All these challenges are transnational, or have the potential of becoming transnational. While we must be guard against the outbreak of conventional wars, we must recognise that newer forms of conflict are more likely. In my view, the following measures can help the Asian states in meeting various challenges effectively.

    The first one is to maintain an active dialogue process, not only among governments, but also defence establishments to build strong channels of communication and dispel mistrust.

    Secondly, we must develop mechanisms to share intelligence about terror groups, criminal elements, drug cartels and other transnational networks that foment violence and subvert states.

    Thirdly, we must attempt to devise common solutions to common challenges that threaten our collective security. We need to develop multilateral frameworks to promote dialogue and prepare strategies for cooperative action.

    It is heartening that this year’s Asian Security Conference will touch upon several important issues and will conclude with a discussion on cooperative frameworks for Asian Security in the 21st century. I am sure that the deliberations by eminent scholars and experts on security issues at the Conference will be fruitful and provide crucial inputs on security-related issues.

    With these words, I am pleased to inaugurate this important conference and convey my best wishes for its success.

    "Jai Hind”.