NEW DELHI: 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 has intensified, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday.
In an address at a conference on the Indo-Pacific, Singh said the nature of the challenges in the region has considerable trans-national implications that require a cooperative response.
The defence minister also asserted that 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.
“While competition over resources has intensified, the rise of serious threats such as terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking and climate change have thrown new challenges for our Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
“The nature of these challenges in the region has considerable trans-national implications which require a cooperative response.
There is, therefore, a need to find convergence of interests and commonality of purpose on maritime issues,” Singh said.
The defence minister said efficient, cooperative and collaborative harnessing of the region’s maritime potential, remained essential for sustaining a steady path to prosperity.
“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.
“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.
His comments came in the backdrop of growing global concern over China’s increasing expansionist behaviour in the Indo-Pacific that has forced many countries to come out with strategies to deal with the challenge.
In his remarks, Singh elaborated on how the oceans have shaped human history from time immemorial, influencing the evolution of life as well as culture.
“From an Indian perspective, looking West, archaeological explorations have revealed ancient maritime connections with other civilisations like Mesopotamia — modern-day Iraq, Dilmun — modern-day Bahrain, and Magan — modern-day Oman,” he said.
The defence minister said that maritime linkages enabling the exchange of goods, culture and goodwill were foundational for mutual prosperity in the past, and continue to remain as such even today.
“Looking East, maritime linkages also played a vital role in taking Buddhism across the region, from Sri Lanka, South East Asian countries and all the way till Korea,” he said.
Singh noted that the amalgamation of ancient Indian folklore such as Ramayana and Mahabharata in South East Asian cultures is also a result of these maritime linkages.
“In fact, the region was so inter-linked that according to a folklore, an Indian princess of Ayodhya married a Korean prince way back in the year 48AD,” he said.