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Presidential Address at the 13th Asian Security Conference

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  • Hon'ble Defence Minister, Shri A. K. Antony
    February 16, 2011

    Director General, IDSA, Shri N.S Sisodia,
    Distinguished participants,
    Ladies and gentlemen,

    I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to the 13th edition of the Asian Security Conference. We all have gathered here on the occasion of Id-e-Milad, birthday of Holy Prophet Mohammad. I extend my warm greetings to all of you, particularly to all our Muslim brethren. The Prophet’s message of peace is today all the more relevant for all nations and societies, as they grapple with violence and terrorism, besides many other nefarious activities.

    Today, we all miss the presence of Shri K Subrahmanyam. He would surely have been amidst us, had destiny not willed it otherwise. His strategic vision has helped the IDSA achieve its present status. I am happy to announce that a K. Subrahmanyam Chair is being established at IDSA in his memory. We hope that the outstanding scholars selected to occupy the Chair will carry forward Late Shri Subrahmanyam’s outstanding work.

    The theme of this 13th Asian Security Conference – ‘Towards a New Asian Order’ is extremely relevant in today’s context. The 21st century has for long been termed – ‘Asian Century’. As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, building a New Asian Order is crucial, if Asia region has to emerge as a world leader. This will be possible only in an atmosphere of peace and harmony and not under the shadow of guns. The contours of the Asian order will have a significant bearing on the world order.

    The eminent gathering at this Conference includes distinguished speakers from the world over. Their experiences, thoughts and perspectives on Asia will go a long way in achieving a stable, equitable, prosperous and a just order in Asia.

    If the Asian Century is to become a living reality, firstly, it is the responsibility of all Asian states to create and sustain such an order. Secondly, the traditional Asian ethos based on the principles of Panchsheel has to form its core, namely – respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutuality and peaceful co-existence. Sustained peace and security will lead to a more lasting economic prosperity, social well-being and equity with justice for the people of Asia. There will be contentious issues along the way, but we should always try to resolve them through mutual understanding, dialogue at bilateral and multilateral levels and a pan-Asian framework. However, if nations permit themselves to be swayed by the burden of historical factors, we will be putting the peace and security of the region and the world in grave peril.

    India has always been at the forefront of resolution of issues through peaceful means and mutual dialogue between nations. Soon after India’s independence, New Delhi’s avowed objective was to “provide a cultural and intellectual revival and social progress in Asia.” Over the years, Asian nations have achieved this – individually, as well as collectively.

    The last century witnessed two World Wars. However, any large-scale conflict in nuclear age will have unforeseen consequences. The stability of the Asian region is crucial for world peace, as several nations of the region have become seething cauldrons of violence and unrest. Transition of power must invariably be through peaceful and non-violent means.

    India’s location on the map of Asia gives it a central and strategic importance. Nations such as India, China and Japan have historical and cultural linkages. Given such a unique interconnectivity between these and other Asian nations too, security-related challenges and their solutions require a united approach from the entire region. Some of the prominent challenges that face the Asian region include – terrorism, nuclear proliferation, piracy and smuggling of arms. The leadership of Asian regions – individually, as well as collectively, need to work upon building a common identity and an efficient security architecture. If the European Union can do it successfully, there is no reason why the Asian region can’t better it.

    This thirteenth edition of the Asian Security Conference must develop the fine print of a common, yet overarching security architecture. Nations of the region have to cooperate on a much larger scale. Some existing institutions like the East Asia Summit and SAARC can and must be broad-based, developed and fine-tuned. Such organisations can really go a long way in developing lasting peace, harmony and stability that is rooted in mutual economic growth and sensitivity for each other’s security concerns.

    The twin processes of globalisation and liberalisation have made the probability of full-blown wars a remote possibility. Peace and stability have become irreversibly interlinked with economic growth. However, despite the economic interdependence, several Asian nations continue to be plagued by internal disturbances and militancy. Most often the expression of discontent by the people actually reflects their burning desire for good governance and all-round development.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The concept of security is rapidly expanding and evolving. Security today seeks to measure economic growth in terms of the general standards of living of the poor and the underprivileged. Climate change and the direction in which the global economy is headed, form the core of any discourse on fresh security issues. I believe that climate change and the direction of the global economy also feature as issues to be addressed by this Conference.

    At times, there is a misplaced scepticism on the space available for the rise and growth of Asian powers. I have no doubt that provided we have the will, creation of space for all Asian nations to grow will never be a constraint.

    India’s democratic fabric provides its citizens a direct stake through universal adult franchise. Political transition has always been peaceful, non-violent and through people’s participation. Successive governments have sought to bring about a transformation in its diverse and pluralistic society within this democratic framework.

    Our relations with other nations are dictated by our security imperatives. We have never wanted to further our relationship with a particular nation at the cost of relations with any other country. In our neighbourhood, we have always been in favour of resolving issues through dialogue and constant engagement.

    As two of the largest nations of the region, India and China need to enhance cooperation levels on common issues such as climate change and trade. Recently, the 13th round of discussions at the level of Special Representatives on the border issue with China was concluded. The complicated border issue can be settled only out through dialogue and discussions. We are not unduly concerned about China’s military modernisation, but we need to carry out a comprehensive review of our defence preparedness and remain vigilant at all times.

    We have also just concluded the Foreign Secretary level talks with Pakistan which demonstrated a desire on the part of both nations to carry forward the dialogue process. However, any meaningful progress can only be made only when Pakistan takes concrete steps to address India’s concerns on 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

    Other nations in our immediate neighbourhood are experiencing unrests. India has always desired peaceful relations with all our neighbours - Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar. We know fully well that security of one nation is closely linked and dependent on the security of its neighbouring countries.

    India has always played a stabilising role in the Asian region, despite itself being plagued by terrorism. We have always been at the forefront in relief and rebuilding initiatives – be it the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, relief and rehabilitation in the wake of Tsunami in 2005, or anti-piracy operations. India has also voluntarily abided by nuclear ‘No-first use’ and unconditional negative security guarantees for non-nuclear states.

    We firmly believe that nations of the Asian region have close historical, cultural and civilizational linkages. These values must be constructively utilised to build an Asian order that reflects our unique Asian traditions.

    I compliment the IDSA for bringing together this eminent galaxy of experts and thinkers from the world over that puts this Conference on a different pedestal.

    With these words, I take your leave and wish the conference the very best in its deliberations.

    Thank you.”