Remarks by Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. V.K. Singh at the 6th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Vientiane (July 26, 2016)
July 26, 2016
Your Excellency, H.E. Saleumxay Kommasith,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR
- I am delighted to be present at this august gathering in the tranquil and charming heritage city of Vientiane. I thank the Government and people of Lao PDR for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation and for the excellent arrangements made for this meeting.
- I would like to begin by complimenting ASEAN for the effective central role that it is playing in the evolution of the East Asia Summit as an inclusive, transparent, balanced, open and informal leaders-led forum. Post its tenth anniversary, it is a pleasure to see Lao PDR continuing to carry forward the good work done by Malaysia, to strengthen the ASEAN-led East Asia Summit process, by convening two meetings of EAS Ambassadors in Jakarta in 2016. The creation of the EAS unit within the ASEAN Secretariat and empowering of our Ambassadors to negotiate drafts of statements on issues of regional and international import will contribute to making the East Asia Summit process more robust and relevant.
- I take great pride in sharing with you that the archaeological site of Nalanda Mahavihara, i.e. Nalanda University, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site on 15 July 2016 at the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee at Istanbul. This unanimous decision testifies to the extraordinary contribution of Nalanda University to institution building, pedagogy, architecture, art and pan-Asian culture in its role as one of the earliest planned Universities in the world. I would like to express gratitude to all EAS participating countries and Vietnam and Indonesia in particular for bringing this decision to fruition. Let us join together in developing Nalanda University as an EAS hub for excellence in education.
- Maritime cooperation is today a key priority, especially following the adoption of the Statement on Enhancing Regional Maritime Cooperation at the tenth East Asia Summit. India conducted an International Fleet Review in February 2016 which saw participation of 12 ships from EAS participating countries, including 5 from ASEAN member states. The Indian Navy has also been a regular participant in maritime exercises conducted by the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus countries and most recently, in June and July 2016, Indian Naval Ships visited Russia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Philippines.
- Following up on the success of the first EAS Conference on Maritime Security and Cooperation which India convened in New Delhi in November 2015, we will also be hosting a second EAS Maritime Conference in November 2016.
- The sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development. India supports freedom of navigation, over flight and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. India believes that States should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability. India has noted the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) in the matter concerning the Philippines and China. As a State Party to UNCLOS, India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.
- We meet in challenging times. The ghastly shadow of terrorism has spread across the globe. The spate of terrorist attacks in country after country have shocked humanity to the core. In this scenario, it is vital to construct a strong international legal regime, built upon the principle of 'zero tolerance' for direct or indirect support to terrorism. Deepening of security cooperation must be based on an outright rejection of state sponsored terrorism and isolating those who harbour, support, finance or sponsor terrorists, without distinguishing between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ terrorists, and while de-linking religion from terrorism. Acts of terrorism are sustained by the ideological, logistical and financial infrastructure that exists in parts of our region. It is this aggregate of state and non-state actors that encourages extremism, indoctrinates youth into violent acts, and militates against attempts to create space for peace. Let us pledge today to work together to erase the scourge of terrorism by taking speedy action against the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of terror.
- In 1996, India had set in motion the process for adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations. Today's realities warrant that nations act for its urgent finalization, to rein in the human and material toll inflicted by acts of terror. I urge EAS support for this initiative.
- India urges DPRK to take concrete actions towards denuclearization and fully comply with its international obligations, including relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and the commitments it has undertaken under the 2005 Joint Statement. We call for heightened vigilance on proliferation of materials and technologies related to nuclear weapons & missiles. India remains committed to working along with the international community to advance the common goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, through strong export controls and membership of multilateral export control regimes.
- The evolving Regional Security Architecture in the Asia-Pacific should be open, transparent and inclusive. At this stage, it must be dialogue-centered, and ASEAN must remain at its heart. For us, ASEAN centrality is as much a practical construct as it is an acknowledgement of ASEAN’s historic role in Asian regional cooperation and integration. We also hope for greater synergy between East Asia Summit, the premier Leaders-led forum, and other security forums such as the ARF and the ADMM Plus.
- I am pleased to inform that India is hosting an Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in New Delhi in November 2016. An EAS Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response would also be organised along-side. We look forward to optimal participation from your respective countries at these events.
- India also remains fully engaged in shaping the regional economic architecture through active participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations. We look forward to a balanced RCEP Agreement with equal ambition in goods, services and investments.
- We firmly believe that India could also play an important role within APEC for deepening the ongoing economic integration in the region.
- I would like to conclude by reaffirming our commitment to work closely with all of you towards ensuring peace, prosperity, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.