It is a great pleasure to address the Third Edition of the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue being organized by the Indian Navy in association with the National Maritime Foundation. That there is such a broad participation in a conversation on this subject is a matter of encouragement. Quite appropriately, the Dialogue has sought to address the four key issues of convergences, divergences, expectations and apprehensions. I am confident that an honest discussion on these different aspects would help to take the concept forward. After all, as a democratic polity, we do believe in a consultative and participative manner of developing approaches that have a larger relevance.
2. Let me first address the issue of convergence. The Indo-Pacific is a fact of life and the question of convergence is therefore one more of perception than of reality. Even those who ostensibly have reservations behave and operate in a manner that validates the Indo-Pacific. And that validation, as you all know, is in its very seamlessness and inter-penetration. In truth, everybody is aware that there is a fusion of theatres that were unnaturally separated earlier. The politics of the day apparently creates some reluctance in admitting to that.
3. That brings me to the divergences. We could all ask why, if the realities were so obvious, that there should be hesitation or more in some quarters from recognizing what is staring us all in the face. The answer is probably in the mind-set, possibly even in their insecurities. If one is steeped in the ethos of the Cold War and even leveraged it to advantage, it is not easy to accept that others can approach the world very differently. Especially if the objective is to create a wider, more collaborative and more democratic approach to achieve common good.
4. What then are the expectations of the Indo-Pacific? Most of all, the likelihood that policies of states which overcome psychological limitations create more opportunities for cooperation. Not just that, also the possibility that such endeavours that would involve greater participants would be based more on respect for laws, rules and norms. This is all the more important when, in the post-Covid era, we all seek to de-risk the world from concentrated production and fragile supply chains.
5. That brings us to the apprehensions bit. As you would have assumed by now, I do not believe they have a real basis. As globalization advances and becomes more diversified, there will only be a greater appreciation of the inter-dependence and broader footprints that the Indo-Pacific expresses. Given this direction, denying the Indo-Pacific is tantamount to denying globalization.
6. In the domain of international relations, it is natural that new concepts take time to be digested. To facilitate that process, it is also important to show an openness of mind and acceptance that there can be many pathways to approach the Indo-Pacific. I am sure that this Dialogue will be helpful in that regard and contribute to driving home the message that as in other aspects of life, international relations too constantly evolve and embrace change and progress.
Thank you for your attention.