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Foreign Secretary’s Remarks at the ORF-NMF-KAS Symposium on “Potential for Indo-European/German cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”

January 21, 2022

Minister of State at the German Foreign Office, H.E. Dr. Tobias Lindner;
Member of Parliament from Germany, Mr. Roderich Kiesewetter;
Director-General for Asia-Pacific at the German Foreign Office, Ambassador Petra Sigmund;
Excellencies, Ambassadors of EU Member States to India;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Namaskar and Guten Tag.

2. At the outset, I wish to tell you how pleased I am to speak at the ORF-NMF-KAS Symposium. I congratulate the organizers for the very relevant and topical theme for today’s deliberations - the "Potential for Indo- European/German cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”.

3. As Germany’s Strategic Partner in the region, I take this opportunity to welcome the German naval frigate Bayern, which is making its port call in Mumbai from today. Yesterday, I was happy to meet the Chief of Naval Staff of Germany Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, who is on a visit to India. I am confident that the frigate Bayern’s visit will be an important milestone in Germany’s sustained and active engagement in the Indo-Pacific and will contribute towards reaffirming a free, open and rules based Indo-Pacific.

4. Today, the Indo-Pacific is not just a geographical construct. It is the new epicentre of global politics and global economics. With 60% of the world's population, 2/3rds of the global economic output and more than half of global trade transiting through its maritime waters, the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, in political, security and economic terms is not lost on any country. For India, the region has been of prime importance for centuries, bolstered by historical, cultural, maritime and economic linkages.

5. India sees the Indo-Pacific as a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity. Our Prime Minister has encapsulated this vision in one term- SAGAR, which stands for Security and Growth for All in the Region. The term SAGAR itself means "Ocean” in several Indian languages.

6. India believes that our common prosperity and security require us to evolve, through dialogue, a common rules-based order for the region. Such an order must respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as equality of all nations. Such an order should enable all countries to use common spaces on sea and in the air, engage in unimpeded commerce, and peacefully settle disputes in accordance with international law. India’s record of respecting and accepting the ITLOS verdict on the delimitation of our maritime boundaries with two of our neighbours – Bangladesh and Myanmar, speaks for itself.

7. Europe and the Indo-Pacific regions are closely interlinked through strong trade and investment linkages. Developments in the Indo-Pacific can have a direct bearing on European economies. The impact of the recent supply chain disruptions was felt by all. The global challenges of sustainable development, environmental protection and climate change are more acute in the region. They can only be addressed through collaborative effort that promotes linkages rather than economic dependencies and debt traps. Therefore, we believe that all countries, including those outside the region with a clear stake in the security and stability of the region, have an important role to play.

8. It is in this context that we have welcomed the growing interest among our European partners, including Germany, to intensify their engagement in the Indo-Pacific region. We are happy to note the commitment of the new coalition government in Germany for a free and open Indo-Pacific region based on global norms and international law. The priorities identified in Germany’s Guidelines on the Indo-Pacific, particularly strengthening multilateralism, the rule of law and democracy, climate protection, trade and digitalisation, closely match with our interests. Going forward, we could broaden the scope for collaboration to include security issues in the region through joint efforts in capacity building against piracy, IUU fishing and other maritime challenges.

9. Counter-terrorism is another key area of cooperation between strategic partners. Failure to cooperate can only embolden terrorists towards more audacity. You would recall the horrific 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack in which Indian, German and other nationals had lost their lives. The recent incident in Texas, United States once again demonstrates that the international network of terror, with its epicenter in India’s neighbourhood, is very much active and has long lasting implications. This is a global threat that requires an unambiguous, undivided, effective and collective response. The External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar had stated at the UN Security Council that "there cannot be any exception or any justification for any act of terrorism, regardless of motivations behind such acts.” Just two days ago, India reiterated its position when it conveyed that any attack on innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure was completely unacceptable; would be in blatant violation of international law; and against all civilized norms.

10. I believe that we can further deepen our cooperation with Germany on matters that impinge on national security interests of our countries through regular exchange of information, mutual capacity building efforts, sharing of best practices, mutual legal assistance and cooperation in multilateral fora. India will be hosting the third "No Money For Terror” Conference this year, and we look forward to participation from Germany in this important initiative.

11. The much-awaited EU Strategy on the Indo-Pacific, with its Team Europe approach and a constructive agenda for the region, has also opened up several possibilities for collaboration not just at the level of the EU but also at the bilateral level with partner countries like Germany. The close convergence in India-EU Connectivity Partnership and the new EU Global Gateway strategy also presents us an opportunity for translating our shared values into reality on the ground and over the sea. This provides a viable and sustainable alternative to support critical infrastructure and connectivity projects in the Indo-Pacific region.

12. Another key challenge in the context of the Indo-Pacific is the threat posed by climate change. India's commitment on climate issues is second to none. Given our shared interests, a Green Partnership with Germany, with particular focus on green hydrogen and new and renewable technologies, will contribute to meeting our own climate targets and facilitate a green and clean transition in the wider Indo-Pacific region. Given the vulnerability of this region to natural disasters, we could also explore cooperation in environmental protection, sustainable development and disaster resilience, including through the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure platform, which Germany joined in February 2020.

13. There is also considerable scope for deeper engagement in multilateral platforms that both our countries are part of- including the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. We welcome Germany’s membership of ReCAAP.

14. Let me take this opportunity to invite Germany and our other European partners to join India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, which Prime Minister Modi had announced at the 14th East Asia Summit in Bangkok in 2019. The Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative is an open, non-treaty-based, inclusive platform for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Australia and Japan have already taken the lead on the Marine Ecology and Connectivity pillars, respectively, while France and Indonesia have taken up the Marine Resources pillar. We would be happy to see more European partners coming on board and leading one of the seven pillars of the Initiative which are closely aligned to the seven priority areas identified in the EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy.

15. I conclude with the hope that today’s Symposium throws up even more interesting ideas for Indo-Pacific cooperation between India and EU in general and India and Germany in particular. Our vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region can only be achieved by cooperation and collaboration, given the need for collective responses to shared challenges in the region. Let us embark on this journey, together.

Thank you.

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