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Speech by Secretary (East) at Academic Session of Delhi Dialogue VIII (February 19, 2016)

February 19, 2016

Mr. Jayant Prasad, DG, IDSA
Distinguished Academics & Opinion Makers from ASEAN Member States and India;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a distinct privilege for me to address the academic session of Delhi Dialogue VIII in front of such a distinguished audience from India and ASEAN countries. In the last two days we have deliberated extensively on the economic, political and business aspects of India’s engagement with ASEAN and, I am sure, the organizers would be able to cull out a number of recommendations from Delhi Dialogue VIII. We now turn our attention to Security, Maritime and Cultural issues.

2015 was an eventful year for the Asia-Pacific region in terms of regional security issues. The security issues of terrorism, moderation, cyber-crime, South China Sea were addressed throughout the year culminating in the 10th East Asia Summit (EAS), which was held in November, 2015. Counter-Terrorism and South China Sea issue dominated the proceedings in the wake of rise of ISIS, Paris Attacks and activities carried out in some of the islands of South China Sea. EAS participating countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, rejected the brand of Islam being propagated by ISIS, and advocated undertaking effective counter-measures against ISIS, including promoting moderation and awareness about the true nature of Islam. Three Statements/Declarations were adopted by EAS on counter-terrorism related issues, viz. on Countering Violent Extremism; Global Movement of Moderates, and on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Security.

The adoption of a statement on countering violent extremism is to be seen as a continuation of the common resolve to counter terrorism and violent extremism displayed, during the 9th EAS in 2014, by way of adoption of a statement expressing deep concern on the rise of violent extremism and brutality committed by terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria. The need to prevent the use of technology, communications and resources for criminal or terrorist purposes was also reflected in the statement on Information and Communications Technologies. The declaration on Global Movement of Moderates recognised that moderation can be a tool to counter violent extremism and supported education as an effective medium to prevent spread of violent extremism and to address its root causes.

India's peaceful settlement of the boundary with Bangladesh under UNCLOS was hailed as an example worthy of emulation by EAS participating countries during discussions on maritime security. They also called for resolution of dispute in the South China Sea in accordance with international law; upholding of Declaration of Conduct on South China Sea agreed between ASEAN and China; and early conclusion of a legally binding Code of Conduct on South China Sea, based on consensus.

In the very first month of 2016, we were confronted with terrorist attacks in Jakarta, Indonesia and in Pathankot, India. Terrorism has become a truly global scourge today. India has displayed early initiative in building a global resolve and new strategies for combating terrorism by tabling a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations almost two decades ago. The initiative has now gathered greater traction at a time when the spectre of global terrorism appears more threatening. We encourage a ‘whole of the world’ approach in countering terrorism.

We undertook several initiatives to promote greater cooperation with ASEAN on terrorism and security related issues in 2015. We sent a multi-agency delegation to visit ASEAN law enforcement institutes in June 2015. We jointly hosted, with Cambodia, an EAS Workshop and Dialogue on Regional Security Architecture at Phnom Penh in July 2015. We have also organised an ASEAN-India Cyber Security Conference in January 2015 in New Delhi. We aim to host the first G-2-G ASEAN-India Cyber Dialogue in New Delhi in early 2016.

Maritime Cooperation has emerged as a significant priority area of cooperation. The Leaders adopted a statement on Enhancing Regional Maritime Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific at the 10th EAS which emphasised sustainable marine economic development. The EAS Conference on Maritime Security and Cooperation which India organised at the ASEAN-India Centre in November 2015 prior to the 10th EAS called for a more cooperative and integrated future for the region through overall development of an ocean-based blue economy. There is a need to ensure long-term sustainability of the coastal and marine ecosystems and the economy by moving from an ocean economy, to a blue economy the sustainable development of which requires careful balancing of human needs and ecosystem protection.

Developing a blue economy in our region would mean integrating its goals into our social, economic and environmental development. This is also the requirement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The new Sustainable Development Goal 2014 refers to the need to conserve and sustainably use marine resources.

We can develop a common regional vision for a blue economy through public private partnerships. Leveraging of technology, such as marine spatial planning, to harvest marine resources in a sustainable manner, is a priority. So also is the need to encourage the private sector to act more responsibly in its use of marine resources while participating in nine key marine resource based industries: Fisheries and Aquaculture; Ports, Shipping and Marine Transport; Tourism, Resorts and Coastal Development; Oil and Gas; Coastal Manufacturing; Seabed Mining; Renewable Energy; Marine Biotechnology; and Marine Technology and Environmental Services.

Sustained historical ties, culture and knowledge have continued to underpin India’s interactions with South East Asia over two millenia. India’s linkages with South East Asia, which came to be called Indo-China by Occidental scholars, date back to ancient times. The geographical peninsula that now contains most ASEAN nations was referred to as Suvarna Bhumi (Golden land) and Suvarna Dwipa (Golden Island) in the Ramayana. Indian influence spread to South East Asia via both land and sea routes. Traders, travellers, scholars and priests travelled far and wide from India, bringing the language, mythology, culture and religion of India with them. Evidence of linkages between Ancient India and South East Asia are found in many texts and in the folklore of the region. The Malay Annals, Burmese chronicles and ancient inscriptions in Vietnam, dating back to the 6th century AD in Sanskrit and Cham language at MySon Wat, demonstrate strong Indian linkages. Tamil literature of 2nd Century AD during Pandya and Chola Kingdoms, too, records trade with Malaysia.

Recognising these civilisational linkages, the ASEAN-India Vision Statement adopted at the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit held in December 2012 encouraged the study, documentation and dissemination of knowledge about the civilizational links between ASEAN and India. In accordance with this mandate, we organised an International Conference on "ASEAN-India Cultural Links: Historical and Contemporary Dimensions”, which was held in New Delhi on 23-24 July 2015.
One of the recommendations of the Conference was to continue the dialogue with renewed emphasis on history and culture. The Chair's statement on the 13th India-ASEAN Summit held in November 2015 has also encouraged holding a second conference. We intend to organize the 2nd ASEAN-India cultural relations conference at Jakarta in 2016. Eminent scholars and academicians, as well as the senior officials from both India and South East Asia will be invited to take part in this conference. I would like today’s session to deliberate upon ways to document our cultural linkage by undertaking joint research projects.

Today’s final session will discuss the way forward, bearing in mind that we are a year away from celebrating 25 years of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations and 15 years of Summit level interaction in 2017.

It would be of immense interest to us to hear from all of you, creative suggestions on how we can commemorate this landmark in a befitting manner. I would like to contribute my two cents. Why don't we consider holding a year long India-ASEAN commemoration, with a wide range of activities such as retracing journeys undertaken by Buddhist pilgrims, travelers and scholars of ancient times; re-enactment of historical events; and staging of performing arts which brings into life our shared cultural heritage. On this thought, let the academic session begin.