New Delhi : Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar on Thursday said that shared prosperity is the key to peace in the Indo-Pacific region, which has emerged as the most prominent source of prosperity in the world.
Delivering the keynote address at a workshop on “Strategic Stability in the Indo-Pacific” organised by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses think tank and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Akbar said that today’s world is very different from what it was a hundred years ago.
“In the political spaces that occupies the globe, a hundred years ago in 1919 there were only about 60 to 65 political spaces, you can call them nations or you can call them kingdoms or whatever you want,” he said.
“Today, there are around 195 countries. So it is a very different world and a very different phenomenon that we are facing.”
Akbar said that this phenomenon has to be recognised by governments and “recognised and corrected by ambitions of governance”.
In this, he said different regions in the world will be involved including the Indo-Pacific “which is going to become, which has already become the most prominent source of prosperity in the world”.
“We have to understand that in order to protect prosperity, we can only do it by sharing it, both the prospects as well as the process through which we ensure peace,” he stated.
In this context, he stressed on the importance of the Indian concept of SAGAR ( Security and Growth for All in the Region) the subtext of which he said is the concept of seas of freedom and prosperity.
Akbar said that cooperation is quite possible within the abilities of the Indo-Pacific region because the rights of sovereignty are enshrined as a global commitment.
“So, in order to look for prosperity, you don’t have to conquer anyone,” he said. “You merely have to discuss, you have to get rid of the notion that there are powers and super powers. You have to get rid of the notion that there are big nations and small nations.”
Speaking about regional geopolitics, he said to India’s immediate west is “the wall” of Pakistan that blocks trade and countries with governments that did not have full control of their territories because of active militias.
However, in the east, Akbar said, all countries have understood that the need in the 21st century is to meet the rising economic aspirations of the people.
“Today, it is not about sun never sets in the British empire, it is about the sun should not set without food at home,” he said.
Though man is a land-centric animal, that land is being replaced by the seas, skies, space and technology, Akbar said.
“When we talk about blue economy, we should not restrict ourselves to the seas. The sky is also blue.”
Akbar described Asia-Pacific as an old term that was basically a definition for war zones and was important for the US to assert control in terms of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.
“But war zones had to give way to trade,” he said. “Today, India’s fastest growing economic relationship is with the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), China and Japan.”
The minister said unlike in the past when India looked at the US from the lens of Europe and Britain, today India looks at the US through the east.
In this context, he said that Australia has become important and and referred to the recently revived quad of India, the US, Japan and Australia that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Stating that India’s interest today is increasing towards the east, Akbar said: “Security is important for freedom, not for control, but for freedom of passage.”
This assumes significance given China’s belligerence in the South China Sea and attempts to increase its footprint in the Indo-Pacific region.
Akbar also stressed that the answer to conflict lies in the three Cs – competition, connectivity and cooperation.