In his inaugural address at a Conference on Asian Relations organized by the Indian Council of World affairs at Sapru House in New Delhi from 21-23 November, 2009, Vice President of India, Mohamed Hamid Ansari called for an “active partnership between New Delhi and Beijing and mutual sensitivity to each other’s concerns (which) is thus vitally necessary if stability, security and prosperity in the shared spaces in their near and distant neighborhood are to be effectively ensured.” He added that while “economic cooperation between us has become a principal driver of our strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity - how India and China deal with various trans-national challenges such as terrorism, illegal migration, smuggling of drugs and arms and pandemics would affect large parts of Asia. The joint vision of the leaderships in India and China is to ensure a global order in which our simultaneous development will have a positive impact for our peoples and economies, as also for the rest of the world.”
Mr. Ansari’s stress on India China relationship is very pertinent and timely since the powers that be in India like lemmings are being drawn into the Washington’s web , whose soft power is having unusual success in India at the cost of New Delhi’s vital long term interests. The Vice-President has earlier too pointed out a corrective direction.
India is unlikely to have any vital strategic conflict in foreseeable future with Russia , a country which the current Indian leadership has ignored. It has also annoyed Iran, the premier Shia state with its proxy battle with Sunni Saudi Arabia in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tehran could also provide useful info on Pakistan and doings of its intelligence agencies. A diligent India could have played China against USA, instead it has become a hostage to US objectives. Remember how Washington used Saddam Hussein and Iraq against an exploding Shia revolution and fervor in Iran.
The US and Israeli lobbies have become too strongly entrenched in India. The monster of terrorism trained, financed and armed by US led West, Saudi and other Arab kingdoms, is daily provided oxygen by the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its atrocities including genocide in Gaza. Western leaders and its corporate media in cahoots with its subservient Indian counterparts have succeeded in diverting the monster’s attention on an ill prepared and dysfunctional Indian security establishment. India seems to have outsourced its security to Washington. It will have serious adverse consequences for India and its security.
The Council at Sapru House was established in 1943 to promote the study of national and international affairs. It had housed Indian School of International Studies, later transferred to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, where new entrants to Indian diplomatic services were attached for some months to study history, international relations and law etc. In fact Mr. Ansari and his other nine colleagues including the writer were trained there in 1962, before being posted out to Indian missions abroad. So we have known and worked with each other for almost 50 years. The Ministry of External affairs started its own Foreign Service Institute later, where the author was responsible for making it fully functional during 1987-89.
Address of the Hon’ble Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari at the Conference titled “Emerging China: Prospects for Partnership in Asia” organized by ICWA and AAS at Sapru House at 1030 hours on 21st November 2009.
November 21, 2009
I am happy to be here at this seminar organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs and the Association of Asia Scholars. Sapru House itself has a place in the evolution of our foreign policy thinking. Established in 1943, the Council is tasked to promote the study of national and international affairs. More than a generation of scholars, analysts and diplomatists has passed through its portals.
It was here that Jawaharlal Nehru, with his vision of Asia forged in the fires of the struggle for freedom that raged across the entire continent of Asia, organized the Asian Relations Conference in 1947 as a non-governmental gathering.
Human societies live in time and space. A historian has noted that in the year 1500 each one of the great centers of world civilization was at a roughly similar stage of development, some more advanced in one area but less so in others. Subsequent events were to show that initiative, technological innovation, intellectual liberty and a flourishing economic base provided the critical mix that allowed the West to dominate the world for almost five centuries.
The Asian Relations Conference was held at the end of one era and at the threshold of another. One theme of the Conference was the contours of the awakening of Asia; another was cooperation and partnership among the countries and peoples of Asia. The objective was spelt out by Nehru: “We propose to stand on our own feet and to co-operate with all others who are prepared to co-operate with us.”
Six decades later, the continent stands at the threshold of another Asian era. In this period the Nehruvian vision of Asia, indeed the geographical unity of the continent so to speak, has ceased to matter for geo-politics or economics. Asia developed, but the development was perceived and reflected in individual countries, sub-regional and trans-regional groupings. Japan emerged from the ruins of the Second World War as an important economic powerhouse, South East Asia has witnessed rapid economic growth and there has been a dramatic change in the economic, military and political profile of China. India has developed at a much faster pace in the last decade bringing millions out of poverty and showing that substantive social and economic progress is possible through democratic governance.
In this period, even as India and China enunciated the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence as the corner stone of inter-state relations, the bilateral relations between them did not always conform to those very principles. Yet, as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presciently put it in 1988: “What must not be forgotten in a listing of differences is a listing of commonality in our world outlook. There has been significant parallelism in the views expressed by India and China on a wide range of issues relating to world security, the international political order, the new international economic order, global concerns in regard to environment and space”.
A glance at the Asian map shows that over a wide arc extending from West Asia, through Central Asia, to South and South East Asia to East Asia, Indian and Chinese interests intersect. Active partnership between New Delhi and Beijing and mutual sensitivity to each other’s concerns is thus vitally necessary if stability, security and prosperity in the shared spaces in their near and distant neighborhood are to be effectively ensured.
The leaderships of India and China during the past two decades have cooperated in creating mutual political and economic stakes for mutual benefit. Economic cooperation between us has become a principal driver of our strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity. Yet, cooperation does not preclude competition. We realize that countries compete in global markets and such competition is constructive and beneficial rather than adversarial.
The post-Cold War world also demands that we readjust our theoretical models of state behavior. Traditional concepts of polarity, alliance building, balance of power and spheres of influence have to contend with the impact of globalization where opportunities for, and threats to, human welfare and national progress have a global character. How India and China deal with various trans-national challenges such as terrorism, illegal migration, smuggling of drugs and arms and pandemics would affect large parts of Asia. The joint vision of the leaderships in India and China is to ensure a global order in which our simultaneous development will have a positive impact for our peoples and economies, as also for the rest of the world.
Allow me to dilate a little on conceptual frameworks. Partnership in Asia has primarily taken four forms. The first is one of Asian regionalism. Asia has been primarily reduced to the total of its constituent sub-regions like GCC, SAARC, SCO, ASEAN, BIMSTEC and the MGC or the Mekong Ganga Cooperation framework. The second means of partnership has been through inter-regional dialogue forums like Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and APEC. The third framework is one of global and multilateral organizations. These include the UN and its specialized bodies, the IMF and World Bank, WTO and WIPO, Asian Development Bank etc. There also exist thematic organizations such as the G-20, Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States. The fourth framework is that of bilateral relations between countries of Asia.
The last decade has seen two contradictory trends at work. Even as market-driven globalization is a reality, the global political and economic institutional framework has weakened and is evident in the diminished role and influence of bodies such as the United Nations, IMF, World Bank and WTO. Nations have resorted to regional political and economic institutions to resolve problems and cooperate for mutual gain. This phenomenon is most visible in the economic arena. With progress being stalled in the Doha round of trade negotiations, countries of Asia have concluded regional and bilateral free trade and economic partnership agreements creating the so-called “noodle bowl” of Asian regionalism, spurred on by the inability of global multilateral bodies to address the Asian economic crisis in 1997 and leading to the emergence of the ASEAN+3 framework.
The evolution of community building and partnership in Asia thereafter led to the launching of the East Asia Summit (EAS) process. The first Declaration issued in Kuala Lumpur called for the EAS to be an open, inclusive, transparent and outward looking forum. The ultimate vision is one of Asian economic integration by converging the Free Trade Agreements among Asian countries into an Asian Regional Trade Agreement. This could, later, lead to the creation of a broader Asian Economic Community.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Partnership and cooperation among Asian countries is a necessity to take advantage of the opportunities emerging as a result of the region’s increasing economic integration, as also to face the common threats of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, energy shortage, security of sea lanes, pandemics, natural disasters and others. China is an important element of this architecture of cooperation, as are India, Japan, Korea, ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand and all other Asian sub-regions.
The future weight and success of Asia is the sum of the success of each of these national and regional components and the tenacity of their inter-linkages. Long-term security and stability in Asia is dependent on the ability of Asian countries to build mutual stakes in one another. Every framework that can further this process should be encouraged and welcomed. A few caveats however would be in order:
1. No partnership architecture or process should be exclusive or exclusionary. It should seek to bring into the fold as many Asian nations as possible and articulate an inclusive, open and transparent process of community building.
2. Community building in Asia should not be a reflection of the emerging redistribution of global or regional power nor should it be a platform for projection of narrow economic and political interests of a nation or group of nations.
3. Soft regionalism based on informal dialogue and consultation mechanisms, consensus building and open structures is a better alternative to hard regionalism based on rigid and definitive institutional structures, inflexible mechanisms and formal dialogue.
4. A multitude of formal cooperation structures could lead to a pick-and-choose policy for ‘forum shopping’. The “noodle bowl” of free trade agreements and comprehensive partnership agreements is overflowing and the impact of these numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements on trade efficiency is an open question. Eventually, there would be no alternative to effective and functioning global multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, IMF, the World Bank and the WTO to ensure that there is a fair, transparent, open and rules-based global political and economic order.
Before I conclude, and in a gathering of strategic thinkers and analysts, it is relevant to recall the words of a master of statecraft of the 19th century. Nations, he observed, travel on the stream of time which they neither create nor direct but upon which they can “steer with more or less skill and experience.” I am confident that this conference would make a contribution to this compendium of skill and also come forth with some practical suggestions about how trans-Asian connectivity can be achieved in an early time frame.
I thank the Indian Council of World Affairs and the Association of Asia Scholars for inviting me to inaugurate this Conference and wish your deliberations all success.