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NEW DELHI : Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that expectations from the Indo-Pacific region include the possibility that states in the region overcome psychological limitations of accepting the Indo-Pacific concept and create avenues for cooperation.

Speaking at a conference on the Indo-Pacific, Jaishankar also said there was also the expectation that the new arrangements of cooperation, with a large number of participants,

“would be based more on respect for laws, rules and norms."

In what can be seen as a swipe at China which has been suspicious and critical of the Indo-Pacific concept and the coming together of the US, India, Japan and Australia for cooperation on a range of issues in the region, the Indian minister said Beijing’s misgivings and apprehensions do not have any real basis.

“As globalization advances and becomes more diversified, there will only be a greater appreciation of the inter-dependence and broader footprints that the Indo-Pacific expresses," he said.

“Given this direction, denying the Indo-Pacific is tantamount to denying globalization," Jaishankar said.

Expectations from the Indo-Pacific included “the likelihood that policies of states which overcome psychological limitations create more opportunities for cooperation. Not just that, also the possibility that such endeavours that would involve greater participants would be based more on respect for laws, rules and norms. This is all the more important when, in the post-Covid era, we all seek to de-risk the world from concentrated production and fragile supply chains," the minister said.
“In the domain of international relations, it is natural that new concepts take time to be digested," the minister said.

“To facilitate that process, it is also important to show an openness of mind and acceptance that there can be many pathways to approach the Indo-Pacific," he said in remarks that could be seen as a response to critics of the Indo-Pacific concept.

In his remarks, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the rise of serious threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy and climate change have thrown new challenges for the Indo-Pacific at a time when the competition over its resources had intensified.

In his speech, Singh said the nature of the challenges in the region had trans-national implications requiring a cooperative response.

India is fully determined to protect its legitimate rights and interests in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone while supporting the maintenance of rules-based maritime systems, he said.

"India is committed to respecting the rights of all nations as laid down in the UN Convention on the Law of Seas (UNCLOS), 1982," he said – seen as aimed at China which has been consistently seen as dismissive of UNCLOS as it creates islands in the South China Sea to bolster its claims and ignore the claims of other countries around the important waterway.  

"We are fully determined to protect the legitimate rights and interests of our country in relation to our territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone while supporting the maintenance of rules-based maritime systems as mandated under UNCLOS," he added.

In his speech, Indian Navy Chief  Karambir Singh said the

Indian Navy was working on "tailor-made" solutions to help friendly countries confront key challenges in the maritime domain to cement India’s credentials as a preferred security partner.

This would make a significant contribution for an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific, Singh said. Without naming China, he also spoke of some states applying "land-centric" territorial mindsets in an attempt to seek greater domination and control.

"Our Navy's endeavour is to help harness competencies collectively to tackle the common challenges being faced. In this, creation of a participative inclusive ecosystem rather than a prohibitive elitist one has been our priority," he said.

A second element of India’s policy was to look outward and be ambitious in its engagement while the third was to engage with partner nations to develop interoperability and trust with an aim to come together in a "plug and play" fashion when needed.

Admiral Singh said the fourth element of Indian policy was to focus on the problems faced by regional nations.

"For example, for the island nations in the Indian Ocean Region, their economy is tourism-oriented. Their problems are of drug smuggling, human smuggling," he said.

"Therefore, as the Indian Navy, we are working to develop tailor-made solutions to these problems. Only when we address the challenges that the nations in the region face, we can hope to emerge as a preferred security partner in the region and make a real contribution towards a free, more open and increasingly inclusive region," Singh said.

The Navy chief also cautioned that any contest in the region would impact all other countries and not just the contenders.

"There is a danger of global commons turning into contested seas. Competition in the Indo-Pacific is becoming more diverse, involving levers of diplomacy, commerce, ideologies, values, science and technology apart from the military," he said.

"If we are to ensure the security and safety of global commons, like-minded navies must come together to manage and maintain the global commons for prosperity," the Navy chief added.

He said the future of the Indo-Pacific hinges on cooperative efforts of like-minded nations.

"What we are seeing today is some states applying land centric territorial mindsets in the basic idea of global commerce, attempting to seek greater domination and control. And therefore it creates challenges to international rules, regulations and reinterpretation of such conventions," he added.

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