Public Diplomacy

External Affairs Minister's Intervention on “Exchange of views on regional and international issues” at 20th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Brunei Darussalam

July 02, 2013

Your Royal Highness and dear colleagues,

Allow me to express my deep gratitude to you, Mr. Chairman for the excellent arrangements made for this meeting and the cordial and hospitable reception that has been extended to us.

We are heartened by the signs of deepening economic interdependence and cooperation within the Asia Pacific region. With globalisation, inter-twining of economies has become a reality. This interdependence contributes significantly towards our shared goals of peace, security and prosperity. At the same time, as we have heard this morning, there are some real anxieties about grave political and security issues that need to be addressed. The ARF provides a forum for dialogue on such issues and India has faith that this dialogue can be constructive and fruitful, provided it is carried out with commitment and vision by all concerned parties.

The universal scourge of terrorism unleashed by terror groups with global reach requires a comprehensive global approach to which all of us have to be committed in an unqualified manner. The global regime against terrorism needs to be hinged on a holistic framework for which the Comprehensive Conventional on International Terrorism at the UN requires early conclusion. Within the ARF community, we must practically enhance our cooperation by pooling our information and resources, not only to prevent terrorist attacks but also to apprehend and bring terrorists to justice and to demonstrate in a categorical way our commitment to combat terror.

It is terrorism that poses the main threat to peace and stability in Afghanistan, securing which is in the interest of all ARF countries and the international community and we have heard this repeated several times today. There is a need for joint and concerted efforts to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens, particularly beyond Afghan borders. We must assist Afghanistan in its efforts to become a stable, democratic and pluralistic state. The international community must stay committed to Afghanistan in the form of development and security assistance during this critical period of transition and transformation.

We support the efforts made by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to establish a peaceful dialogue with all armed opposition groups. It is important to underscore that this process must be a broad-based Afghan-led Afghan-owned reconciliation one, within the framework of the Afghan Constitution and internationally accepted red lines, to which we have all subscribed. This dialogue must involve all sections of the Afghan society and armed opposition groups, including the Taliban, willing to give up their arms and subscribe to the Constitution. The reconciliation process must not undermine the legitimacy of the Afghan State and Government and the political, social and economic progress witnessed in Afghanistan over the past decade, through contributions made by many in the international community. I may emphasise here that India’s Afghanistan policy does not have an exit policy. India has played an important role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan and intends to remain committed to Afghanistan’s future.

Another area of deep concern to us is that of clandestine proliferation of WMD technologies, which poses a grave threat to international security. With a view to address the risk of nuclear weapons, materials and technology falling into the hands of terrorists, India has been piloting a UN resolution in this regard for the past several years. In this context, the situation in the Korean peninsula and the DPRK and the possible clandestine proliferation deserves careful scrutiny. India has expressed deep concern about the nuclear test conducted by DPRK on February 12, 2013 in violation of its international commitments. We hope that the voice of reason will prevail. We call upon DPRK to refrain from such actions which adversely impact on peace and stability in the region. We support the objective of de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a vision that the DPRK has endorsed, and the resumption of talks among relevant parties.

The imperatives of globalisation and our economic inter-dependence require a stable maritime system, given the demands of trade and commerce and energy flows. Safety and security of sea lanes of communication is, therefore, of paramount importance. Non-state threats to maritime security stemming from piracy and smuggling that we have seen in recent years should be addressed through dialogue, transparency and close cooperation. There is also need to reaffirm the importance of unimpeded right of passage and other maritime rights in accordance with accepted principles of international law. These principles obviously should be respected by all. Maintenance of peace and security in the region is of vital interest and sovereignty issues must be resolved peacefully by all countries concerned, in accordance with international law. We oppose the use or threat of use of force. We hope that all parties to disputes in the South China Sea region will abide by the 2002 Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea and work together to ensure peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with international law, including 1982 UNCLOS. We urge all parties concerned to take forward these discussions towards adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.

The Asian security architecture now has a multiplicity of forums, albeit with converging agenda. We believe that the ASEAN should continue to be in the lead in each of these forums. We also believe that the activities under these forums should be coordinated so as to minimise duplication and encourage greater synergy. India remains fully committed to these processes and will participate in and contribute to the ARF as well as the ADMM+, Expanded Maritime Forum and others.

I would also like to touch on the situation in Syria and the Middle East. India is concerned at the deteriorating security situation in Syria and calls upon all parties to stop violence and engage in inclusive national dialogue in order to resolve the conflict through peaceful political means, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians. This must be done in accordance with internationally approved political and legal principles including the UNSC resolutions 2042 and 2043 and the Joint Communique of the Geneva Action Group.

We also support the revival of the Middle East Peace Process which should result in the realisation of the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to an independent State, living side by side and in peace and security with Israel. May I also take this opportunity to convey my good wishes to our good friend and neighbour Myanmar as it prepares to take on the Chairmanship of ASEAN and thus the ARF in 2014?

Thank you.


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