Singapore, June 1 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region is that of a free, open and inclusive region that embraces all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity.
“India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members,” Modi said while delivering the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Track I annual inter-governmental security forum organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank.
“Nor as a grouping that seeks to dominate. And by no means do we consider it as directed against any country,” he said.
Stating that there cannot be a geographical definition for the region, India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific Region is a positive one with many elements.
“Our vision stands for a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces us all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity,” Modi stated.
“It includes all nations in this geography as also others beyond who have a stake in it. Southeast Asia is at its centre. And, Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has been and will be central to its future.”
Stating that the Indian Ocean has shaped much of India’s history, he said that it now holds the key to the country’s future.
“The ocean carries 90 per cent of India’s trade and our energy sources,” he said.
“It is also the lifeline of global commerce. The Indian Ocean connects regions of diverse cultures and different levels of peace and prosperity.”
With southeast Asia being India’s neighbour by land and sea, Modi said that India has growing political, economic and defence ties with each of the 10 southeast Asian countries.
“With Asean, from dialogue partners, we have become strategic partners over the course of 25 years,” he said.
He also said that India’s partnership with Japan – from economic to strategic – has been completely transformed and described it as that of great substance and purpose that is a cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy.
Modi also said that there is a strong momentum in India’s cooperation with South Korea, while there is a fresh energy in ties with Australia and New Zealand.
Stating that India’s partnerships are strong and growing beyond East and Southeast Asia he said that “it is a measure of our strategic autonomy that India’s Strategic Partnership with Russia has matured to be special and privileged”.
“At the same time, India’s global strategic partnership with the United States has overcome the hesitations of history and continues to deepen across the extraordinary breadth of our relationship,” he said.
“It has assumed new significance in the changing world. And, an important pillar of this partnership is our shared vision of an open, stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”
India and the US, along with Japan and Australia, are part of a recently revived quad that seeks to work for peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
Regarding China, Modi said that “no other relationship of India has as many layers as our relations with China”.
“I firmly believe that Asia and the world will have a better future when India and China work together in trust and confidence, sensitive to each other’s interests,” he said.
Stating that India has a growing partnership with Africa, he said: “At its core are cooperation based on Africa’s requirements, and a history of warmth and mutual respect.”
The Prime Minister also said that the Indian armed forces, especially the navy, are building partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region for peace and security, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Asserting that India will sustain a growth rate of 7.5 to 8 per cent per year, he said that the country’s global and regional integration will increase.
“A nation of over 800 million youth knows that their future will be secured not just by the scale of India’s economy, but also by the depth of global engagement,” he said.
Modi called for a common rules based order in the Indo-Pacific , through dialogue, for common prosperity and security in the region.
“Such an order must believe in sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as equality of all nations, irrespective of size and strength,” he stated.
“These rules and norms should be based on the consent of all, not on the power of the few. This must be based on faith in dialogue, and not dependence on force.”
The Prime Minister also called for equal access as a right under international law to the use of common spaces on sea and in the air that would require freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.
Calling for an end to protectionism in this age of globalisation, he said that “Solutions cannot be found behind walls of protection, but in embracing change.”
Stressing on connectivity, Modi said that apart from enhancing trade and prosperity, it also unites a region.
“All of this is possible, if we do not return to the age of great power rivalries,” he said.
“I have said this before: Asia of rivalry will hold us all back. Asia of cooperation will shape this century.”