New Delhi: A day after Russia claimed that the Indo-Pacific initiative was targeted at containing China’s influence in the region, the US and India said the concept was not aimed at excluding any country and was a “principled vision”.
US Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, during a panel discussion at the Raisina Dialogue here, slammed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for saying that the Indo-Pacific initiative was aimed at disrupting the existing regional structures and said it was a community of countries that respected the rule of law and stood up for freedom of navigation in the seas and skies.
Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, who was also part of the panel, said he agreed with Pottinger’s views that Indo-Pacific was a principled vision and Asia Pacific was a colonial concept.
“India was connected to China and South East Asia for millennia. That connect was broken by colonisation…. (Today) global commons are important and Indo-Pacific is a global common,” he said.
In his address at the Raisina Dialogue, Lavrov had strongly criticised the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative on Wednesday.
Responding to the “broadside” against the term “Indo-Pacific”, Pottinger said it was a “principled vision”.
“It is a community of countries that respects the rule of law, stands up for freedom of navigation in the seas and skies above, promotes open commerce, open thinking and above all, defends the sanctity of each nation’s sovereignty.
“So, it is free and open, does not exclude any nation, but does ask each nation to respect and promote those principles that we hold in common,” he said.
Countries that support the notion of a free and open Indo-Pacific are those that have citizen-centric visions, rather than regime-centric visions, Pottinger added.
He also hit out at the visions competing against the Indo-Pacific such as the Eurasian economic project, saying these were less free, less open, less flexible and tended to be more hierarchical and coercive.
Taking a dig at suggestions for Russia’s possible alliance with China and Iran, Pottinger wondered what kind of talks would the three countries have — “what kind of face recognition softwares you use to recognise protesters”, how do you mark dashlines on your map and to make a “better debt trap”.
Some of those visions were not talking about how to respect the sovereignty of neighbours, he said.
Gokhale cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks to highlight what Indo-Pacific was about.
“Other countries have articulated their vision. There is a difference in scope, geographies and content. If we consider democracy as a value which we all share, then we must accept that there are different points of view. We do not necessarily share that point of view,” he said, in an apparent reference to the Russian foreign minister’s remarks.
“All those who have supported Indo-Pacific as a concept believe that this is a concept that is relevant to the region and which is going to be beneficial economically as well as in terms of security. From India’s perspective, we have to see what the prime minister said and what he said was that it had to be inclusive, had to guarantee security for all and did not leave anybody out,” Gokhale said.
If some people felt that there were other concepts, they were welcome to lay it on the table and “we can talk about it”, he added.
“The Asia Pacific as a concept is essentially a colonial concept. We ignore the fact that long before colonies came up in Asia, India was connected with the South East Asia and China and other parts of the world for millennia,” the foreign secretary said.
That connect was broken because different colonial powers divided those parts of the world and therefore, there was no trade, but that did not mean that “we keep concepts that were determined in the 20th century”, he said.
“I think the 21st century is a time when connectivities are important, global commons are important and Indo-Pacific is a global common,” he said.
Besides Gokhale and Pottinger, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Jukka Juusti, Permanent Secretary, Finland’s Ministry of Defence, were also part of the panel discussion.
Source: Economic Times