National Maritime Foundation (NMF), Chennai Chapter in association with the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras (UNOM) and the Observers Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter conducted a Round Table discussion on “National Objectives – STRategic Imperatives of the Far East (NO STRIFE) at Chennai on December 09, 2011. Round Table discussions commenced at 1015 hours and concluded at 1315 hours.
Presently, China is the only Asian power to have a permanent seat in the UNSC (United Nations Security Council). India has bright chances to become a permanent member in UNSC. If India has to be a global player, India has to look towards ‘East’ also. India has to maintain friendly relations and remain as a trusted partner of the East Asian countries. Cooperation is needed in Political, Security, Economic, Socio-Cultural areas.
Here are some important East, South East, Far East nations for India: China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, (North) Korea, (South) Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.
Asian and South Asian countries have their own associations. The associations and Indian links with these associations are
- ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations – founded in 1967) member states: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam. India became a dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1992. Regular ASEAN-India Summits are being held annually from 2002.
- ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum – established in 1994): Participants in the ARF are – Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, United States, and Vietnam.
- SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – founded in 1985) member states: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
- BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation – founded in 1997): BIMSTEC is a link between ASEAN and SARRC. The member nations are – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- EAS (East Asia Summit) – First summit was held in 2005. Members are: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.
In addition, India has Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).
India’s ‘Look East Policy’ came into existence in early 1990s. This policy needs to be fine tuned. NMF believes that while land borders divide the nations, oceans provide seamless connectivity to the nations. Hence, this ‘NO STRIFE’ Round Table discussions are significant.
Some interesting features of this Round Table discussion are:
- Context setting: by Commodore S Shekhar, Regional Director, Chennai Chapter, NMF.
- Opening Address: by Dr Gopalji Malviya, Head of Department, Defence and Strategic Studies, UNOM.
- Inaugural Address: by Inspector General S P Sharma, Commander Coast Guard Region (East).
- Presentations by
- Mr Ajit Singh, Consul General of Singapore.
- Mr Matt Beh, Political Consul, US Consulate.
- Mr N Sathiya Moorthy, Director, ORF.
- Dr Utham Kumar Jamadagni, Defence and Strategic Studies, UNOM.
- The presentations were followed by Open House discussions.
I. Commodore S Shekhar of NMF
a. He set the context for the discussions as
- India’s positioning in the world stage.
- India’s expectations/possible sectors of interest: strategic, diplomatic, economic, technological, knowledge management.
- The ‘Far East’ in India’s calculus.
- The interests of other ‘stake holders’.
- The ‘NO STRIFE’ Road Map.
b. He expected from the discussions
- Clear understanding of issues involved.
- Identifying areas of potential ‘conflict’.
- Possible solutions for evolving a ‘No Strife’ approach.
- Road Map for implementing the possible solutions.
c. He also briefed about ‘Conflict’
- Conflict is a chain reaction of: Agreement – Difference – Disagreement – Violent Disagreement – Open Hostilities.
- Conflict arises from disagreements due to inconsistent: objectives, thoughts or emotions.
- Conflict is within or among individuals, teams, departments, organisations, society at large, nations.
- Conflict can be one of value, attitude, behaviour, resource.
- Conflict exists when someone does not get what he expects or when he gets what he does not expect.
- Resolving conflict
- Those whose needs are unmet ‘own’ the problem.
- It is the ‘owner’ who must find the ‘solution’.
- During the process of ‘resolution’, ‘ownership’ could change hands.
- Conflict Resolution: After individually assessing the situation, appropriate solution has to be determined by respecting rights of others without compromising own needs.
II. Summary of Round Table Discussions
- There is lot of difference between ‘India of 1960s’ and ‘India of 2011’ in terms of economy, technology, military, space, human resources etc.,
- 21 century is viewed globally as ‘Asia’s century’ and India has a significant role to play.
- India’s ‘Look East Policy’ must be more constructive, objective, holistic and diplomatic with political realism and assertiveness to deal with relations.
- India’s ‘rashtriya dharma’ (national interests) must always be above ‘coalition dharma’ in formulating foreign policy.
- All actors in the East Asia region are important irrespective of their capability, size, intentions.
- There is competition between players like China, Japan, U.S, India to occupy strategic space in the East Asia region.
- Does India have the capacity, capability to reach and sustain in the East Asian region ?
- To understand better, one must look Sri Lankan issues with ‘Sri Lankan Eyes’ and similarly look into China issues with ‘Chinese Eyes’.
- Is India too much China-centric or too much pre-occupied with China in approaching East Asian regional issues instead of looking beyond ?
- Diplomacy plays a major role to resolve conflicts between the nations.
- Diplomacy has played a major role to convince Australia to sell uranium to India.
- Diplomacy has succeeded in Vietnam through Mekong – Ganga Cooperation.
- China needs to be taken more as an ‘opportunity’ than to see as a ‘challenge’.
- India’s diplomacy has been mostly proactive and absorptive. Now it is becoming assertive.
- India lacks the following in diplomacy:
- India is still hesitating to recognise Taiwan and North Korea. This is to please whom ?
- In controlling the Chinese presence in Sri Lanka.
- In controlling the Chinese presence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
- Diplomacy can not be effective with insufficient manpower in foreign missions.
- If diplomats in foreign missions have to be productive,
- They must know the local language.
- They must be well-informed about the country and socio-cultural background.
- Archival details of the nation must be available in public domain, for the researchers and scholars to study the past. This helps to plan future course of action without repeating the past mistakes.
- A country can reduce defence expenditure by having more diplomats. Same time diplomacy without arms is like playing music without instruments. So, correct balancing is required.
- We need to learn a lot from China’s diplomacy.
- India’s potential in the South East Asian region in terms of economy and trade is much more than what is being estimated.
- Is there a fast-track platform to address the issues related to FTAs signed by India with East Asian countries ?
- ASEAN views India as a credible, trusted regional power.
- Nations in the eastern region must encourage collaboration rather than confrontation, while attempting to achieve their respective national interests.
- External players (U.S, China, Japan, India and Russia) continue to show their interest in East Asia and South East Asia.
- Islamic fundamentalism, sea piracy are the areas of concern in the South East Asia region.
- Korean Peninsula, South China Sea, Taiwan Strait remain as flash points for conflicts. Code of Conduct is being evolved to reduce conflicts and to create ‘no strife’ environment.
- China’s presence in South East Asia and the Indian Ocean is increasing but China has to remain as a peaceful player.
- U.S interests in the East Asia region largely relates to Maritime Security, Non-Proliferation, Disaster Response and Humanitarian Assistance.
- ADMM Plus (ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting) is being viewed by the U.S as an innovative mechanism to strengthen regional security and China too considers it as a platform to build mutual trust and cooperation. India is merely participating without initiating anything in this forum.
- As far as India is concerned, China remains as a potential threat either short term or long term; it may not be a imminent threat or immediate threat.
e. Technology and Knowledge Management
- Print and electronic media play a major role in nation building. But the media does not cover the good work done by the governments in the front page.
- India’s 54 percent youth population is nowhere comparable with other countries.
Thanks to NMF, UNOM and ORF for organising this Round Table discussions.
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