West Asia should not “outsource security”, says M.J. Akbar

September 06, 2018

New Delhi: In his keynote address to the 3rd West Asia Conference, organized by the Institute for Defence studies and Analyses (IDSA), Minister of State for External Affairs M. J. Akbar said India wanted conflicts of West Asia to come towards resolution, not by the efforts of external powers but through an understanding reached by the region’s nation states.

Speaking at the conference titled: “Changing Security Paradigm in West Asia: Regional and International Responses”, the minister stressed: “Just as you cannot outsource security, you cannot outsource peace also”.

Importance of West Asia for India

The minister described West Asia as “the most difficult region in the world” today and said that India is “part of the ebb and flow of geopolitics of this region”.

He spoke of the importance of history in understanding current developments in West Asia, and said: “The past is always with us in the region and it shapes and reshapes the present”.

Mr Akbar traced the history of the region from the First World War onwards and explained how it stills impacts the region’s geopolitics. He discussed the negative impact of colonialism and explained how India was able to defeat it through the strength of the Indian idea, which was the power of ‘Satyagraha’ that meant power not just of non-violence, but the power of truth and justice. The minister said that the power of colonialisation that started in India also died in India.

He then pointed out as the challenge of the 20th century was to attain freedom from colonialism, the challenge of the 21st century is how best to use the freedom we have achieved for bettering the lives of the people.

Terrorism an existential threat

The Minister of State for External Affairs also called the dangers of terrorism an existential threat. Mr Akbar said is that terrorism seeks to poison plural society. He said, “Pluralism is an anathema for terrorists. At one level, it is a conflict for those who believe in faith equality versus those who believe in faith supremacy or faith unilateralism”.

Mr Akbar also highlighted the policies of the Indian government, which he said believes in values of multilateralism. Thus he said: “Our own (Indian) policy is to encourage and be with all systems and so we are able to work very happily across binaries.”

The Minister of State brought to attention the several visits made by the Indian Prime Minister to West Asian countries in the calendar year and the exchange of visits by senior officials of West Asia and India in recent years.