In the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions in Asia-Pacific and increase in terrorist activities worldwide, the two issues of terrorism and South China Sea remained the focus of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Singapore. India will lend its strength to ensure freedom of navigation in regional waters, Mr Modi said on November 23 at the Shangri-La hotel, as he outlined his government’s Act East Policy set against a resurgent domestic economy.
The most critical need in Asia was to uphold and strengthen the rules and norms of collective behaviour built not on the strength of a few but on the consent of all, Mr Modi said.
“India will work with countries in the region and beyond, including the United States and Russia, to ensure that our commons – ocean, space and cyber – remain avenues of shared prosperity, not become new theatres of contests,” he said, while delivering the 37th Singapore Lecture.
The lecture was attended by a standing room-only audience of more than 1,000 that repeatedly applauded the Indian leader.
“Even as we celebrate the past 50 years, we want to build a partnership for the next 50 years. Tomorrow, the two Prime Ministers will be signing a strategic partnership that will not only elevate relations but also chart the way forward in the coming decades,” Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said.
Amid a standoff between China and some East Asian nations over South China Sea, Mr Modi said, oceans, space and the cyber world should not become ‘new theatres of contests’ but should be the avenues of ‘shared prosperity’ and offered to work in this direction.
During the lecture Mr Modi spoke about how India and China have kept their border region peaceful and stable despite the ‘unresolved issues’, including the boundary question between the two countries. “In the flux and transition of our times, the most critical need in this region is to uphold and strengthen the rules and norms that must define our collective behaviour,” he said.
“We must all come together, in East Asia Summit and other forums, to build a cooperative and collaborative future, not on the strength of a few, but on the consent of all,” Mr Modi said.
“India will work with countries in the region and beyond, including the US and Russia, our East Asia Summit partners, to ensure that our commons – ocean, space and cyber – remain avenues of shared prosperity and not become new theatres of contests,” Mr Modi said.
The statement is significant as tensions are growing over South China Sea with the US now getting involved and China warning it to keep away.
Focusing on terrorism, Mr Modi said: “The world must speak in one voice and act in unison. There will be political, legal, military and intelligence efforts. But, we must do more.” Mr Modi stressed on the need to delink terrorism from religion. Countries that support terrorism must be held accountable, Mr Modi added.
Some of the other issues that Mr Modi discussed during the course of the lecture included the importance of Southeast Asia and ASEAN. Mr Modi paid tribute to the architect of Singapore and the first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He also spoke about achieving a concrete outcome in Paris at the global climate change summit. “We are a few days away from Paris, where we must achieve concrete outcome, in accordance with the principles of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is especially important for our region, particularly the small island states.”
Speaking about the importance of Asia, Mr Modi spoke about the potential in the region and stressed that we need to work hard to realise the vision of an Asian century.
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