June 02, 2007

India and China: Building International Stability, A K Antony, Minister of Defence, India

Second Plenary Session – India and China: Building International Stability, A K Antony, Minister of Defence, India


Saturday 2 June 2007


A K Antony, Minister of Defence, India

I am very pleased to address this prestigious gathering on India’s perspectives on building international stability. At the outset, let me thank the Government of Singapore through my counterpart Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, for the excellent arrangements they have made. Equally, I would express my appreciation to the International Institute of Strategic Studies – particularly to its Director Dr. John Chipman – for bringing together so many distinguished participants from different countries.

Most of us gathered here today are professionally focussed on security issues. We deal with different dimensions of security – from internal and regional, to the continental and global. We also envisage the definition of security in varied ways – from the traditional hard security viewpoint to its larger and softer concepts. We have been made aware too that the nature of threats that societies face are constantly changing. Obviously, our responses which are so critical to ensuring international stability must keep pace with those changes. Today, I share India’s thinking on these subjects, less as a projection of static interests vis-à-vis an external world, and more as a viewpoint of a country integrating with a larger global canvas. I hope thus to bring out how India’s security policies contribute to building international stability.

For some international stability is the absence of conflict among the major powers. As was notably the case during the Cold War, international stability in this perspective is also related to a balance of power between major contenders for influence. The Cold War is gone but the concepts of deterrence, balance, arms races and arms control are still seen as important factors in international stability. This point of view may still be valid to a degree but just as our view of security has evolved so too must our view of international stability.

Given today’s unprecedented globalisation in trade, technology, media, and a host of other areas, our lives are linked together in myriad ways. This interdependence is in itself a major dampener of conflict, reducing the incentive for major players to seek a resolution of differences by a show of strength. However, globalisation has highlighted new threats to international stability such as meltdown of currencies and financial markets – a new domino theory if you will – cascading protectionism, pandemics, uncontrolled migration flows and inability of states to handle change and conflict within thereby generating instability and conflict. Globalisation and interdependence have also changed radically the nature of old threats and enhanced the threat potential of non-state actors. For example, India had to cope with terrorism in the 80s. It was seen by many as India’s problem. Today, post 9/11, international terrorism is seen from a very different perspective. The old concepts of balance of power and accommodation of rising powers through slow adjustment of existing frameworks need to be updated and supplemented if we are to successfully handle these challenges to international stability.

In this background and as Minister of Defence, how do I see India’s security priorities? India is the world’s most populous democracy. The well-being of its billion plus citizens has to be any Indian Government’s first task. This well-being is not only economic. Our Constitution embodies a host of rights and guarantees and directs us to remove social and economic disparities. When security is accompanied by such a broad sense of well being, we can be more certainly assured of stability. Meeting aspirations in the midst of substantial change is, however, a very complex challenge. Yet, it has to be seriously undertaken because mitigating grievances and addressing expectations are central to the management of such change. Values, beliefs and ideologies can make their contribution, both positively and negatively. The point I wish to emphasise is that an effective management of India’s internal security at a time of rapid modernisation is itself a key contribution to international stability. When one sixth of the world demonstrates an ability to meet its wants, manage its expectations and govern itself effectively, the significance of that achievement cannot be overvalued.

India has a coastline of more than 9000 kms, 300 island territories, some of which are closer to our neighbours than our own landmass, significant and growing maritime assets and 2.5 million square kms of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The sea lanes going through the Indian Ocean are vital arteries of the global economy. We still have unresolved border issues and for more than two decades we have had to respond to the challenge of cross-border terrorism and proliferation of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in our neighbourhood. Our next security priority therefore has to be ensuring peace and stability on India’s borders and in the regions with which we have increasing interaction - the Gulf, Central Asia, the Indian Ocean region, South Asia and South East Asia. This entails maintaining an adequate level of defence preparedness to keep the probability of armed conflict low and to respond to situations such as the 2004 Indian Ocean "tsunami". Where there are disagreements, the priority has to be confidence building and a rational and realistic approach based on peaceful bilateral dialogue.

We have taken a number of policy initiatives – both bilateral and regional – that would put our ties with immediate neighbours on a much better footing. Our relations with China have undergone a significant improvement. As we both expand and integrate with the global economy, new opportunities offer themselves to refashion our ties. On major global issues, we often have converging positions and shared interests. We are committed to settling bilateral issues in a fair and transparent manner. With Pakistan, the composite dialogue has changed the climate of our ties for the better. With regard to bridging our differences, including on Jammu & Kashmir, we know what has not worked in the past. The challenge is to devise more imaginative approaches. To do that, it is imperative that Pakistan delivers on its commitment not to permit any territory under its control to be utilised to support terrorism in any manner. I cannot emphasise enough India’s stakes in the emergence of a stable and moderate Pakistan, at peace with itself as much as with its neighbours. Our quest to strengthen regional stability extends equally to other neighbours. For example in Afghanistan, India has committed more than US $ 750 million to reconstruction and 3,500 Indians are participating in such programmes there. With all our neighbours we are prepared to go the extra mile to encourage greater regional cooperation for mutual benefit. The recent SAARC Summit in New Delhi is a testimony of our sincerity in this regard. In security matters, India has completed a decade of engagement with the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which provides a vital platform for the major security players in Asia to sit together and debate common challenges.

Since the beginning of economic reforms in 1991, the Indian economy has become increasingly integrated in terms of trade, investment and technology flows with the rest of the world. Therefore the third security priority for us is to safeguard the material, psychological and technological basis for enhanced interaction with the rest of the world. Our approach in dealing with cross-cutting threats to security is based on a realistic assessment of global trends, capabilities and our own technological options - be it in terms of energy security, the security of critical infrastructure, WMD proliferation, terrorism and maritime security. The issue of non-littoral contributions to the security of sea lanes has been discussed in this Dialogue earlier. India remains willing to work constructively with littoral States in ensuring the security of vital sea lanes.

Finally India’s security priority has to be a vigorous and active participation in shaping global developments, including through strong equations with key players – US, Russia, EU, China and Japan and key regions such as the South East Asia, the Gulf and the Middle East. Contrary to some theories in that regard, we do not perceive the inter se relationships between the major global players in zero sum game terms. Our defence and security interaction with the major powers is expanding in both scope and content. The recent naval exercises and visits that we conducted with Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, with Japan and USA, and with Russia and China reflect the expansion of our vision as much as our capabilities.

I have attempted to describe India’s security priorities in terms of the requirements of international stability today. India’s first priority may be internal, focussing on a conducive environment for rapidly improving the quality of life of our people, but when we succeed at home, given the sheer numbers involved, we also succeed in denting global poverty and in demonstrating new opportunities for developing countries to leverage the globalised economy. Equally importantly the pluralism that sustains our society at home can be a major contribution to a more stable and diverse international order. Regionally, our security interests are met by a peaceful and developing periphery. This is the aim of our current intensifying engagement with countries in South Asia, South East Asia, West Asia and Central Asia. Given the challenges to peace and long term stability in these regions, this also contributes to international stability. Globally, we are contributing actively as a responsible partner to the search for solutions to security dilemmas connected with terrorism, WMD proliferation and other non-traditional security threats. Our longstanding credentials as a good global citizen will only be further reinforced by the growing stakes that we have developed in the world economy. India’s relations with the major powers - United States, Russia, China, European Union, and Japan as well as the emerging powers of Latin America and Africa are on a path of rapid expansion. This in itself is a positive development for international security and stability in a rapidly changing world characterized by multivalence, interdependence and political cooperation among the major powers. Our rise has given no cause for any apprehension with regard to regional or international stability. On the contrary this is seen as contributing to the development of a more stable world order.

To conclude, it is not merely the structure of the international system that is changing at a rapid pace. The challenges themselves are evolving rapidly. When it comes to natural disasters, pandemics, illegal trafficking in goods or people or environmental problems, traditional analysis based on national rivalries must give way to more forward looking approaches of cooperative solutions. It will require major states, in particular, to be less tactical in their approaches to the key challenges of our times. This will also require that no single forum perhaps assume responsibility for international security related issues. Only a pluralistic security order working through a network of cooperative structures can have the legitimacy as well as the wherewithal to deal with the security challenges of the 21st century. India is ready to play its role in the shaping of this new approach to collective security.

I thank you for your attention.

No comments: