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Remarks by External Affairs Minister at the Opening Session of the EU Ministerial Forum on Indo-Pacific

February 22, 2022

Minister Le Drian, Vice President Borell,

Dear Colleagues

It is a great privilege to join this opening plenary. This initiative in the midst of a serious crisis in your own region reflects the importance that you attach to Europe’s engagement with the Indo Pacific region.

India appreciates the enormous contribution that Europe can make to shaping world affairs. Its considered voice and mature capabilities are key to the emergence of a multipolar world. Through our annual Summits, we have greatly enhanced the EU-India strategic partnership. The Indo Pacific will certainly be an important arena for its expression.

France was among the first countries in the world to recognise this strategic geography. It is, of course, a resident power in the Indo-Pacific. And by extension, so too is the European Union.

France and the EU may have strong partnerships, presence and interests in the Indo Pacific. The values they espouse and the practices they follow are no less significant. The Indo-Pacific is at the heart of the multipolarity and rebalancing that characterizes contemporary changes. But it is essential that greater power and stronger capabilities lead to responsibility and restraint. This means, above all, respect for international law; territorial integrity and sovereignty. It means economics free of coercion and politics free from the threat or the use of force. It means observing global norms and practices. And refraining from making claims on the global commons.

Today, we see challenges on that score with the clarity that proximity brings. And believe me, distance is no insulation. The issues we confront in the Indo-Pacific will extend beyond, even to Europe.

We, therefore, welcome EU’s commitment to contribute to the security of the region. This remains a maritime century, and the tides of the Indo-Pacific region will certainly help shape its future. Our collective efforts can keep the oceans peaceful, open and secure, and, at the same time, contribute to conserve its resources and keep it clean.

With its economic heft and expertise, the EU can also promote economic development, infrastructure, connectivity, digital transformation, climate change, biodiversity and human-centric concerns like health, besides security. For these reasons, we welcome EU’s Global Gateway.

Countries with shared values and vision can better ensure a regional culture of working together. One in which all nations, irrespective of size, have sovereign options and make their own choices. That is the essence of our shared endeavours.

EU’s strategy is consistent with India’s vision of a free, open, balanced and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, anchored in ASEAN centrality, as outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore in 2018.

India’s approach is broad-based and emphasises multilateralism, plurilateralism and collective action. These are combined in the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative launched by Prime Minister Modi at the East Asia Summit in 2019. We are pleased that France, Australia, Indonesia and Japan chair one pillar each. We hope others too will step forward.

In security, France is already among India’s foremost partners. With EU too, we now have an enhanced partnership and operational level of access.

In the area of connectivity, India’s Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure and the EU-India Connectivity Partnership have convergence with the Global Gateway. Our efforts must not only offer alternative resources, but also set standards in sustainability, viability and transparency.

On global challenges, the India-France initiative on International Solar Alliance now includes many European partners. India and France are also joining hands to launch the Indo-Pacific Parks partnership. We invite our partners from the EU and the region to join this initiative and reinforce our efforts aimed at conserving biodiversity in the Indo Pacific.

The Indo Pacific region traces a wide arc of immense diversity, but with specific dynamics. In coming together in Paris, we signal the importance of our partnership with the EU in building a secure, prosperous and peaceful future for the Indo Pacific. I thank you for your attention.


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