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Intervention by ​External Affairs Minister at 21st ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Meeting, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar​

August 10, 2014

I would like to convey my gratitude to you, Mr Chairman, for the excellent arrangements for this meeting. We are particularly delighted to see Myanmar, a neighbour and a friend, at the helm of the ASEAN Regional Forum. I am confident that under your able stewardship we will come together to deliver substantive outcomes this year.

A new Government has taken charge in India with strong public support and high public expectations. Our agenda focuses on inclusive economic growth, good governance, promotion of infrastructure, trade and investment. I am aware of the critical role that our bilateral cooperation with all of your countries will play in the realisation of this agenda.

I have already met many of you and I look forward to getting to know you all and to working with you in the years ahead. I would like to convey my condolences to our colleague from Malaysia and all other colleagues who lost their citizens in the tragic air crash of MH 17.

Mr. Chairman, nurturing a climate of peace and stability, especially in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region is a global priority. This places a responsibility on all of us and on the ARF as a premium platform for security dialogue and cooperation in the region. It is satisfying to note that the relations between the Asian powers are stable and that dialogue and cooperation among them bilaterally and in multilateral forums are intensifying. At the same time, Asian security is beset with several challenges – terrorism and WMD proliferation, territorial and maritime disputes, cyber crime and piracy, food and energy insecurity, environmental degradation and humanitarian disasters. Very few of these challenges can be handled unilaterally. The notion of comprehensive and cooperative security really comes alive in our region.

Let me just briefly highlight India’s position on some of the issues that colleagues have referred to today.

First, terrorism. We must address this scourge resolutely and with one yardstick. Our commitments must be translated into concrete action against individuals and groups involved in terrorist acts. Terrorists should not find sanctuary and support in any ARF member state. At this time of a delicate transition, the international community must support Afghanistan to preserve the progress it has made in the last decade against terrorism and related threats to its national wellbeing. India remains committed to assisting Afghanistan in building its capacity for democratic governance, security and economic development.

Second, we have always supported efforts to bring about peace, stability, reconcialiation and reunification on the Korean Peninsula. Our concerns on nuclear and missile proliferation from DPRK are well-known and we endorse the objective of peaceful de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Third, we are deeply concerned at the ongoing situation in West Asia, a region closely tied to India culturally and economically. We support a negotiated solution to the recent outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine.

Fourth, recent developments in the South China Sea underscore the need to resolve sovereignty issues peacefully by the countries concerned in accordance with international law. India opposes the use or threat of use of force and supports freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. These principles should be respected by all. We have noted that the parties concerned are engaged in discussions to address the issue, and we hope that progress will be made with respect to implementation of Guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea and the adoption of a Code of Conduct on the basis of consensus.

Let me conclude, Mr. Chairman, with a few thoughts on the regional security architecture. The Asia-Pacific security architecture in general and the ARF in particular should be open, transparent, inclusive and evolutionary. At this stage it must be dialogue-centered; and ASEAN must remain at its heart. For us ASEAN centrality is as much a practical construct as it is an acknowledgment of ASEAN’s historic role in Asian regional cooperation and integration. We also hope for greater synergy and complementarity between ARF and other security forums such as the East Asia Summit and the ADMM Plus. I assure you of India’s continued contribution to the success of ARF activities.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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