External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said the Indo-Pacific concept is “not tomorrow’s forecast but yesterday’s reality” and the important task at hand is to invest time and effort to ensure it as an “open, free and inclusive platform”.
S Jaishankar, speaking at the valedictory function of the 11th Delhi Dialogue, said for an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific platform it is in everyone’s interest to “ensure that the doors remain open to cooperation on as wide a platform as possible”.
“In other words, it makes more sense for all us to focus on what we do, and with as many partners as possible,” he said.
He also said that the Indo-Pacific concept is “not tomorrow’s forecast, but yesterday’s reality”.
This year’s Delhi Dialogue was based on the theme of ‘Advancing Partnership in Indo-Pacific’, and saw participation from special envoys, deputy ministers and senior officials from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand, as well as the deputy secretary general of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
S Jaishankar said dialogues held over the past two days reflected the “reality” that “we are yet to reach any kind of agreement, leave alone consensus, on the Indo-Pacific concept, or even its geographic extent”.
“There was recognition that while there may be a multiplicity of views on the Indo-Pacific and all that it contains, there is everything to gain by engaging with this concept, and trying to build the idea outward as we go,” he said.
S Jaishankar said an initial set of ideas on the Indo-Pacific has been produced in a ‘Delhi Consensus’ document which will be presented to the next Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA) senior officials meeting next year.
He said in the case of connectivity, there is “clearly room” for much more to be done within the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
“What is needed is for us to find ways to build upon plans to enhance connectivity, regionally and through sub-regional initiatives,” he said.
“As Indonesian Foreign Minister Her Excellency Retno Marsudi reminded yesterday, there is a space for us to reclaim infrastructure connectivity on our own, within our region,” the External Affairs minister said.
S Jaishankar said another area where tangible outcomes can help the region ensure implementation runs in tandem with ideation is partnership-building projects. Another area of partnerships was maritime security.
“While we all need to work together to share maritime domain data to ensure that every link of the maritime security chain is equally strong, there are also challenges to human security that also need to be addressed,” he pointed out.
S Jaishankar said a “third broad area of conversation that we had apart from definitions, history, and opportunities was around the idea of platforms for coordination”.
He said the defining principle for India is to ensure that the region remains “open and free” for inclusive partnerships with all, within the parameters of “sovereignty, equality, and a rules-based system”.
Operationally, it is only logical that instead of trying to set up new architecture “we work with architecture that already exists”, he said.
“To our east, there are clearly no shortage of mechanisms. But there is much less architecture that covers the Indo-Pacific region west of India, IORA notwithstanding and certainly no architecture currently that spans the entire region from end-to-end,” he added.
“In this case, therefore what is it that we should be doing? Personally, I am not sure that the right way forward is to first find a way of creating end-to-end architecture, covering all possible areas of interest, before exploring what we should be doing together,” S Jaishankar said.