Indian Defence Minister Sri Rajnath Singh emphasised the essentiality of peace, stability and prosperity for the realisation of Free, Open and Inclusive Indo-Pacific (FOIP). While speaking at the ASEAN Plus Defence Ministers’ Meet (ADMM Plus), Sri Singh pointed out the significant dimensions of the changing Indian approach in backdrop of the growing tension in the South China Sea (SCS) emanating from the Chinese belligerence.
First, his speech revealed that India has no hesitation now to indicate its concerns clearly before the violator of international norms and laws pushing the region towards destabilisation. Though China was not named, yet the reference was crystal clear.
This meeting was also attended by the Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe besides the Defence Ministers from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States. This was a signal to China that the overall relations cannot remain normal when China is continuing its aggressive activities in the SCS and elsewhere.
Second, he emphasised that peace, stability and prosperity of the SCS was central for the FOIP. While underscoring the criticality of ‘security of the sea lanes of communication for peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region’, he linked it with the developments in the SCS that were attracting attention of stakeholders not only in the region but beyond it as well.
Hinting at the growing aggressiveness of China, Sri Singh averred that ‘new challenges to international peace and security were emerging’. He further stressed the need for a new system: “The multitude of challenges of today’s dynamic and interdependent world cannot be addressed with outdated systems that were designed to deal with trials of the past.” This indicated the need for the FOIP and the centrality of ASEAN in it.
He also talked about India’s deep connection with ASEAN stating that New Delhi continued to attach importance of this group’s centrality in ensuring peace and stability in the region.