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Presidential Address at the 12th Asian Security Conference

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  • Hon'ble Defence Minister, Shri A. K. Antony
    February 11, 2010

    Shri N.S. Sisodia, Director General, IDSA,
    Distinguished invitees,
    Friends from the media,
    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I am honoured and happy to be amongst you at this inaugural session of the 12th Asian Security Conference. The theme of the Conference – ‘Asia’s Strategic Futures – 2030’, is particularly relevant in the context of the changing dynamics in the Asian region. Your presence is a testimony to the importance of the theme, as well as a common desire to make a lasting contribution in shaping the future of our world.

    It is widely acknowledged that the 21st century will be Asia’s century and will see the rise and consolidation of Asia’s role in the world. As we enter the second decade of this millennium, the promise of the Asian dream can be seen everywhere. Many of Asia’s economies, notably India’s and China’s, continued to grow, even though the global economy was in the throes of a recession. The expansion of infrastructure, the improvement of human development indicators are signs of the emergence of Asia. Paradoxically, the challenges to the realisation of this promise too, lie within Asia. The growth of religious fanaticism and the epicentre of global terrorism in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond is one such challenge.

    There is a school of thought which feels that the world may not see many large-scale conflicts. This is similar to the Mutually Assured Doctrine of the Cold War era. The tools of war are getting sophisticated, yet deadlier and devastating. This should discourage democratic nations from choosing war to settle disputes. Though all-out wars between nations may not be the norm any longer, they have been replaced by terrorism, insurgencies and various forms of militancy. Such low-key conflicts and proxy wars are used as instruments by other nations to challenge the State structures.

    India’s experience with terrorism tells us that the line of distinction between State-sponsored terrorism and the role of non-state actors is often blurred – and rather indistinguishable. Transnational terrorism has, of late, emerged as a real threat. Our neighbourhood, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to terrorist organisations like LeT and Al Qaeda, which pose a threat to the entire world. The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan too are the victims of these organisations. Unless the real support base of these organisations is tracked down and dismantled, their activities will continue to pose a serious threat. Cooperation must also include nation-states giving up support to terror outfits. No country should provide support, explicit, or otherwise, to terror outfits. This is an important pre-requisite for peace and development in the region.

    India has always been interested in a peaceful neighbourhood. We want our neighbours to make progress. Several nations of the region share historical and cultural commonalities. We also face many common developmental challenges. However, we cannot expect the situation to improve, till all stakeholders have equal stakes in each other’s peace, progress and stability. We cannot wait endlessly for such a realisation and good sense to dawn. The world community must act decisively to tackle this problem. The scourge of terrorism has to be dealt with comprehensively and with a jointness of approach.

    Terror infrastructure continues to thrive on Pakistani soil. We continue to be firm with our demand that Pakistan must put an end to terror activities emanating from its soil. Indo-Pak relations always have a huge bearing on regional peace and security. Our Government’s willingness to resume negotiations with Pakistan must be seen in this backdrop. At the same time, we are also carefully monitoring the developments in Pakistan.

    Our relationship with China is progressing at bilateral and multilateral level. We have always invested in Confidence Building Measures aimed at enhancing understanding and trust-building. We are carrying out continuous appraisals of its military capabilities. At the same time, we are also taking all necessary measures to shape our responses.

    Every nation has to be adequately prepared to safeguard its “territorial integrity and sovereignty”. We will make all-out efforts to strengthen our security and safeguard our people. However, our defence policy is neither aggressive, nor is aimed at any particular country. We only seek to build an effective deterrent capability to safeguard ourselves. The recent successful test of Agni-III needs to be seen in this context. It is not aimed against any particular nation.

    India has always supported complete elimination of all nuclear weapons. We are strongly and voluntarily committed to ‘No-First Use’ of nuclear weapons. We also welcome the ongoing debate on nuclear disarmament. India has been steadfast in its support to the only two non-discriminatory treaties banning weapons of mass destruction – the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention. In keeping with our obligations under the CWC, last year, we completed the process of destruction of our chemical weapons. I say this to highlight our long-standing support for commencement of negotiations on an international treaty, on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, for the elimination of nuclear weapons, globally and verifiably. We would also support a process that delegitimizes nuclear weapons, just as chemical and biological weapons were, prior to their elimination through treaties. Today, India and the international community face the dangerous possibility of nuclear materials and technologies falling into the hands of terrorists. We look forward to explore these ideas further in a spirit of shared concerns and convergence of interests with all the nations.

    Security however, has several other dimensions too. At the macro level, threats like climate change and natural disasters have similar consequences for all nations. But the severity of impact is likely to be much more in densely populated parts of Asia. Nations of the region thus have a combined stake in lasting peace and each other’s well-being.

    Many nations of the Asian region are at the crossroads. The various challenges can be met by the need and potential for thorough cooperation and collective action. India’s approach to the security challenges facing Asia is based on the values of pluralism, cooperation and inclusiveness. We strongly believe that nothing else will work in a region as diverse as ours.

    Common concerns over the security of the Sea Lanes of Communication have become a major worry in the last few years. This concern has brought about a significant level of cooperation among Navies of affected countries. On its part, India deployed its warships in the Indian Ocean and nearby regions to protect the Sea Lanes of Communication, as they are critical for world trade. We will continue to play a constructive role to ensure the stability of Indian Ocean and the near-by regions. Similarly, cooperative efforts in the field of exploration, sharing of technologies, investment and infrastructure like pipelines can help the region address the energy challenge. Efforts to deal with climate change, especially in sharing green technologies, enhancing water sharing and dealing with natural disasters cannot succeeded without a collective approach.

    Exploration of outer space is another area where countries of the region can work together. Space is a common asset for mankind. Recently Japan, China and India have successfully completed their missions to Moon. Multilateral collaboration is necessary in space too because of technological challenges and huge financial costs involved. Space security thus, becomes an extremely crucial issue in 21st century. If regional powers can work together to harness the vast potential for the common good of mankind, it would reduce the possibility of the militarization of space in the future.

    Today, information is available across the world in real time. Perceptions of deprivation and injustice have thus become stronger. Clearly, nations and governments cannot ignore disparities resulting from globalisation. The world cannot remain peaceful, unless the underprivileged and poor make progress in equal measure. Our government has thus, focused on inclusive growth. I hope that all countries in the region will become equal partners in the region’s growth. The developed nations too must follow fair and equitable policies so that it does not slow down the growth of poorer nations. The industrialised world’s view on technology transfer will also have to change, if the goal of inclusive growth, vital for a peaceful world, is to be achieved.

    I have no doubt that the deliberations at this Conference would be of great value in bringing new thoughts and perspectives to assessing the contours of the challenges to be addressed in the future. Let me conclude by wishing the Conference all success. I hope the participants from foreign countries have a pleasant and a memorable stay in India.

    Thank you. JAI HIND