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Inaugural Address at the 9th Asian Security Conference

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  • Hon'ble Vice President of India, Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat
    February 09, 2007

    Namaskar, Good Morning,

    I am happy to be here in your midst today on the important occasion when the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), after 40 years of its existence, enters its own home. On this auspicious house warming event, I offer my felicitations and greetings to you Mr. President and to all members of the IDSA family. This is certainly a day of rejoicing for IDSA, its extended family and scholars within India and abroad. Everyone would greatly benefit working in this beautiful campus equipped with all necessary facilities.

    IDSA owes this campus to the resources successive Ministers of Defence have provided so very generously. I compliment them on their farsightedness and magnanimity. I also congratulate all those who planned this project and executed it, particularly the workers who toiled day and night to complete this project.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, IDSA was founded in 1965 by men of vision. They had a dream to create a great Institution, an Institution dedicated to the cause of knowledge, and the cause of security. It is a matter of satisfaction as well as pride that over the years IDSA has made a remarkable contribution to strategic thinking. Its research has helped policy making and provided alternatives to decision makers. It has often led the debates on important issues of national and international security. It has disseminated ideas and information on the security challenges of our time.

    I am very impressed to learn that the Institute's scholars have recently adopted a vision statement to develop IDSA into a world class Institution. The pursuit of this laudable goal will require long term sustained effort with a sense of commitment and dedication. Besides, IDSA will also need help from many quarters, especially the Government. to ensure that IDSA's work becomes policy relevant, the interaction between the Institute's scholars and policy makers will need to be improved. The Institute will also have to pay special attention to the quality of its software, i.e. the human resource. On this auspicious occasion I wish the IDSA family of scholars all success in realising their cherished vision.

    Friends, it is the natural craving of the people of the world to live in an environment of security, peace and harmony so as to be able to pursue the path of progress and development. Over the years mankind has made great progress in varied fields. After the end of the Cold War period, during the last decade of the 20th century, it was felt that security problems would also be resolved to a large extent. However, the hard reality is that despite continuing efforts made to bring about peace, the 20th century has proved to be the most violent in human history and all out nuclear war between the two superpowers could have ended the human civilization as we know it and perhaps brought about a nuclear winter. Many millions lost their lives in World Wars I & II. Even when there was no major war during the Cold War era of 1945-1990, at least 20 million people were killed during this period of 'long peace'. After the Cold War, during the 1990s, many armed conflicts took place, about 6 million people were killed and around 12 million people had been displaced from their homes.

    Friends, war is an evil game, it is also financially a very costly luxury at the expense of programmes for overcoming under-development and welfare of the people. World War II is estimated to have cost $ 13 billion in direct costs. Wars and conflicts also bring about financial burdens in the form of peace keeping and reconstruction. The cost of UN Peace Keeping between 1991 and 2002 alone was $ 21.5 billion. Besides, there is an added cost of defence preparedness. The world today spends a mind boggling figure of over $ 1000 billion per annum on defence. how one wishes at least some of this vast unproductive expenditure could be saved for the sake of alleviation of widespread world poverty and achieving the millennium development goals.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, we have to, sadly enough, admit the hard reality that while mankind has succeeded in achieving outstanding progress in a number of fields, it has failed in making the world more secure. Situations of potential conflicts and wars still exist. Besides, new dangers are also emerging; these include the spread of weapons of mass destruction, extremism and terrorism, international crime, trafficking in drugs, and the like. There are also new non-traditional threats like global warming, competition for scarce resources of water, energy and strategic materials, cyber warfare, genetic engineering and possible weaponisation of space. This emerging grim scenario poses a big and formidable challenge to our security environment.

    The principal challenges before mankind are, therefore, to see how violence can be minimised, how the world can be made more secure for human progress and how this progress can be made more inclusive. These are indeed daunting challenges and this is where scholars and institutes like the IDSA have a crucial role to play. Your work and those of your institutions can help us understand better the root causes of the threats we face, their changing nature and the possible manner in which these can be tackled. Your inputs to policy makers are, of course, important but you also play an equally significant role in informing the civil society and communities at large.

    Friends, we are living in the era of globalisation. However, instead of one unified global world we are witnessing its increasing fragmentation into civilizational superpowers with potential 'clash of civilizations'. Our planet Earth is getting divided into, what one scholar has called, different emotional zones of conflicting ideology of thoughts and extreme rigidity of views. Even in the field of trade and business, globalisation has led to some negative consequences. It has resulted in great disparities in many parts of the world, led to anger and alienation on the part of the deprived and the under-privileged, and in some cases this has even ended up in violence. This certainly is not the true globalisation that we were looking for.

    Friends, I believe true globalisation begets interdependence and interdependence begets the necessity of a common value system to make it work. We need a common value system to combat terrorism or extremism of any sort, as also to combat the ravages of poverty, famine, disease and under-development.

    The focus of globalisation today should not be merely on trade and business; it ought to aim at building an ethos of global values of shared conviction and belief in values of democracy, liberty, religious tolerance and human rights and in acceptance of the principles and values of plurality and respect for diversity. The universal application of these common global values alone would have the capacity to generate a more secured and peaceful environment.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, today is also the beginning of IDSA's 9th Asian Security Conference. Celebrating the house-warming of its new campus with the holding of this important Conference is indeed very appropriate as also in keeping with the tradition of IDSA not to lose any opportunity to do serious business. I extend my warm greetings to all the delegates to the Conference.

    The theme of the Conference, "Security Dynamics in Southeast Asia" is also very relevant. India and Southeast Asia have enjoyed a special relationship throughout history. India and Southeast Asia are home to many languages, cultures, religions and ethnic groups. In fact, we share a common vision of human progress, peace, security and economic development. This relationship assumes even greater importance today. The 21st century has rightly been called the Asian Century. Spurred by impressive industrial and economic growth, Asia will be a conglomerate superpower synergistically unified in its diversity. Some scholars have even observed that today when the world scenario is dotted with conflicts as also clashes of emotions, Asia happily displays a culture of hope. It is, therefore, very appropriate that study and research on issues related to the security environment of the Asian region receive due priority and importance.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, 'security' is an indivisible concept. No country in today's world can remain in isolation. The nature of the threats we face today, like spread of weapons, terrorism, global warming, epidemic diseases, demographic challenges and extremist ideologies, is trans-national. No nation can meet these threats and challenges alone. Conferences like these are an ideal opportunity to understand each other's perspectives, explore co-operative approaches to security and find ways of working together to make the world a safer place.

    With these words I have great pleasure to inaugurate this Conference. I do hope the Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to the distinguished delegates to contribute to a larger understanding of the issues and problems affecting us today. I wish you success in your purposeful deliberations.

    Thank you Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of IDSA for asking me to be here this morning. It has, indeed, been a great pleasure to share my thoughts with you all.