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Secretary (East)’s opening remarks at the India-Japan-Italy Trilateral Webinar on Indo-Pacific (June 17, 2021)

June 17, 2021

Excellencies
Ladies & Gentlemen,


Good afternoon to everyone. It is a pleasure to address this webinar today on the Indo-Pacific organised by the Embassy of Italy in collaboration with Japan Institute for International Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation from India.

2. As you all know, the concept of Indo-Pacific has gained increasing salience in recent years. Besides India, several countries and regions have articulated their own concept and vision for the Indo-Pacific, including Japan, U.S., Australia, ASEAN, France, Germany, the Netherlands, UK and most recently the EU.

3. The Indo-Pacific signifies the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans which can no longer be viewed as separate and distinct spheres. It is a maritime space that connects Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Pacific Coast of the Americas through which over 50% of global trade passes. It is home to over 64% of the world’s population and contributes to over 62% of global GDP. Therefore, for obvious reasons, the security, stability, peace and prosperity of this vast region is important not only regionally but globally too.

4. Historically, the Indian and Pacific Oceans have enjoyed a deep connect, facilitating the flow of goods and people, building commerce and cultural linkages. In that sense, the Indo-Pacific has always been a seamless contiguous region. With greater globalization and a rebalancing of power, this vast region has experienced strong and sustained economic growth. While this economic dynamism has led to increased connectivity, regional integration and greater economic opportunities, it has also brought increased threats and challenges.

5. In this backdrop, peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific necessitates ensuring the safety and security of this maritime space. In our inter-dependent world, the complexity of such challenges has become too large to be addressed by any one nation, underlining thereby, the pressing need for collaborative action to address common challenges. The Indo-Pacific concept recognizes that it is in the collective interest of all countries to ensure that the global commons are better secured.

6. India formally articulated its vision for the Indo-Pacific at the Shangri La Dialogue in June 2018 where Prime Minister Modi spoke about a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific region, which embraces all countries in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. It builds on India’s Act East Policy and its doctrine of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) announced by PM in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

7. India's vision for the Indo-Pacific is a positive one that includes all nations in the geography and beyond who have a stake in it. ASEAN centrality and unity lie at the heart of this Indo-Pacific. Our common prosperity and security require us to evolve a common rules-based order that applies to all individually and also to the global commons. Such an order must respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as equality of all nations, irrespective of size or strength. These rules and norms should be based on the consent of all, not on the power of the few. It also means that nations must uphold the international commitments they make. This is the foundation of India's faith in multilateralism, regionalism and commitment to rule of law.

8. India’s Vision for the Indo-Pacific underlines equal access for all to the use of common spaces on sea and in air, mandating freedom of navigation, overflight, unimpeded commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law. This would ensure that our sea lanes are pathways to prosperity.

9. India stands for an open, balanced, rules-based and stable trade environment in the Indo-Pacific Region, which promotes trade and investment. The Vision emphasises the importance of building infrastructure and connectivity, based on principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, consultation, good governance, transparency, viability and sustainability. It calls for cooperation and partnership, respect and dialogue, among nations given the need for shared responses to shared challenges in the region.

10. To give a practical shape to this cooperative and collaborative approach in the Indo-Pacific, India proposed the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) at the East Asia Summit (EAS) in November 2019. The IPOI is envisaged as an open, inclusive, non-treaty-based global initiative, aimed to promote practical cooperation by drawing on existing regional architectures like the ASEAN-led East Asia Summit (EAS) framework, IORA, PIF etc. The IPOI is an initiative seeking to better manage, conserve, sustain and secure the maritime domain. It has seven central pillars that address different aspects of the shared challenges faced by the region that require urgent and coordinated solutions. These pillars include Maritime Security, Maritime Ecology, Maritime Resources, Capacity Building and Resource Sharing, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation, and Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport.

11. While India will be the driving force behind all areas identified under the IPOI, we are also actively seeking partnerships with like-minded countries to lead on any of the pillars of IPOI. Given India’s inherent strengths, India has taken the lead on two pillars, namely, (i) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management and (ii) Maritime Security.

12. There is a lot of work ongoing not only by India but countries across the Indo-Pacific which can be categorised under various pillars of IPOI like finding technology-based solutions to address marine pollution, sustainable management of marine resources, improving lives of coastal communities, exploitation of sea-bed resources, projects supporting connectivity, promoting the Blue Economy, capacity building, etc.

13. We believe that in all these areas covered by the IPOI, coordinated efforts among countries can pay rich dividends. We are happy to note that IPOI has been welcomed by several countries in the region. Australia has taken lead on Maritime Ecology Pillar, Japan on Connectivity pillar and France and Indonesia on Maritime Resource Pillar. We look forward to welcoming other like-minded countries on board IPOI.

Excellencies and Friends,

14. India and Japan share close partnership in the Indo-Pacific driven by convergence of views for a peaceful, open, equitable, stable and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and a commitment to work for its peace, stability, security and development. Given Japan’s expertise in development of quality infrastructure, we believe that Japan’s lead on the Connectivity Pillar of IPOI will contribute to unlocking the potential for an equitable, positive and forward-looking change in the region.

15. Europe’s embrace of the Indo-Pacific underlines the growing recognition of the region’s importance and unfolds new opportunities for cooperation with India. The focus areas of the European strategy are strikingly similar to India’s own vision of the Indo-Pacific. We encourage Italy to lend support to an India-centric EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. This will provide a springboard to India-Italy cooperation for the region’s peace and prosperity. Further, Italy’s manufacturing prowess complements India’s desire to become a trustworthy node in the global value supply chains. This synergy is supported by our central position in the Indo-Pacific region and the new initiatives, such as the Production Linked Incentive scheme. The newly launched India-EU Connectivity Partnership also provides a framework for India and Italy to strengthen sustainable connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Friends,

16. The geo-political pivot to Indo-Pacific is still an ongoing process and it is upon the like-minded countries like India, Japan and Italy to ensure that the Indo-Pacific remains peaceful and open, taking into account needs and concerns of all its inhabitants so as to ensure the security and growth of all in the region.

17. I hope today’s webinar would result in some useful suggestions to materializing our trilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and under the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative.

I thank you for your attention.

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