Open, inclusive Indo-Asian-Pacific seas vital for regional prosperity and peace: officials

August 28, 2018 - 09:00

Open, inclusive sea with rule-based order is vital to the prosperity and security of the Indian Ocean region and the Asia-Pacific region, diplomats agreed yesterday in the third Indian Ocean Conference opened in Hà Nội.


The third Indian Ocean opened yesterday in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — An open, inclusive sea with rule-based order is vital to the prosperity and security of the Indian Ocean region and Asia-Pacific, diplomats said yesterday at the third Indian Ocean Conference in Hà Nội.

The conference, themed ‘Building Regional Architecture’ and scheduled to last two days (August 27-28), was held by the India Foundation, in collaboration with the Diplomatic Academy of Việt Nam, the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies of Singapore (RSIS) and the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.

The conference attracted hundreds of scholars, diplomats and policy makers from 43 countries, including the US, China, Japan and Australia.

The conference’s agenda focuses on emerging regional architecture and promoting co-operation between stakeholder countries in the region in building trust, respecting international law and settling disputes in a peaceful manner, as well as maritime management and handling of non-traditional threats.

In her opening adress, External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj stressed the Indian Ocean region, with its ancient civilisations and dynamic economies, is at the centre of “the free and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”

She also agreed on the centrality of ASEAN in the regional maritime structure, in maritime peace, security and freedom of navigation, while calling to mind threats that could undermine governance and security in the region, including piracy, smuggling, and naval competition.

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Phạm Bình Minh delivered a speech at the 3rd Indian Ocean Conference, which opened in Hà Nội on August 27. — VNA/VNS Photo

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh stressed the emergence of the Indo-Asian-Pacific as a unified entity in his speech.

He said that the conference, aiming at envisioning viable forms of regional architecture, augurs well for future co-operation, against the backdrops of growing anti-globalisation, extremism and nationalism.

“The heightened level of exchanges in economic, political and cultural areas is the new driver propelling the Asian century to become the Indo-Asian-Pacific century,” Minh said.

He cautioned that constructing any Indo-Asian-Pacific regional architecture is a “complex undertaking” and that to contribute to peace, security and prosperity in the region, countries need to embody “four fundamental elements” – inclusivity; respect for international law, freedom of navigation and uninhibited trade flow; ASEAN’s centrality; respect for nations’ sovereignty and independence.

The Vietnamese foreign minister said that for any project within the wide range of co-operation initiatives recently seen – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), India’s Act East, China’s Belt and Road initiative or Japan-US initiative Indo-Pacific – must be “based on the supremacy of international law, respect for self-determination of the nation.”

In his remarks, Singaporean foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan emphasised the importance of “maritime advantage” where the seas continue to be the most vital trade route, offering free point-to-point travel with little obstruction.

80 per cent of global trade volume and 70 per cent the total revenues of goods pass are transported by sea, he said, with most of the routes going through the Indian Ocean, which links prime economies in the North Atlantic littoral with Asia-Pacific region.

Singapore welcomes regional co-operation, but stressed inter-dependence within ASEAN and how win-win outcomes for all can be achieved even with many world powers competing for dominance, the official said.

“We gain more by working together, investing in one another and by trading with one another, because the opposite scenario is to divide the world into rival blocs, insist on narrow independence, engage in zero sum competition and become puppets of proxy wars,” he said.

Similarly, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed his conviction that the Indian Ocean is the ocean of the future, where it will be the world’s maritime super highway, and stressed that multilateralism should push for inclusiveness instead of divisiveness.

The conference, which opened in Việt Nam after the previous two were held in Singapore and Sri Lanka in 2016 and 2017, respectively, is evident of the growing ties between New Delhi and Hà Nội and the position of Việt Nam in the US-led Indo-Pacific initiative. — VNS