Speeches/Statements Speech by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on "India's vision of the Indo Pacific Vision" at Chulalongkorn University on 18 August 2022

Speech by External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on "India's vision of the Indo Pacific Vision" at Chulalongkorn University on 18 August 2022

India’s Vision of the Indo-Pacific

Dean, Faculty of Political Science of Chulalongkorn University;

Director, Indian Studies Center of Chulalongkorn University;

Ambassador of India to Thailand;

Excellencies; and

Dear friends;

Good evening;


Sawadee Khrap;

I am delighted to deliver a talk on the topic "India's Vision of the Indo Pacific” at this prestigious Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to the Chulalongkorn University for extending me this invitation to interact with this wonderful audience and for the arrangements.

  1. 2.Every vision is based on concepts and assessments. That is the case with Indo-Pacific too where India is concerned. Three decades ago, we made a strategic correction to the East that was responsible for the rapid flowering of cooperation with ASEAN. Originally, this was contemplated as an economic initiative, with trade and investment at its core. Over the years, India’s interaction expanded well beyond ASEAN to cover Japan, Korea and China, as also in due course, Australia. The facets of cooperation also increased, now covering connectivity in various forms, people-to-people ties, and more recently, defence and security. This maturing in Indian terminology is perceived as a graduation from Look East to Act East Policy. What is relevant for our purposes today is to recognize that a very substantial part of India’s interests now lie towards the East, beyond the Indian ocean and into the Pacific one.
  1. 3.During this very period, the landscape also started to change as part of larger economic and political re-balancing. Just as India developed greater interests in the Pacific, countries of East Asia have also been more visible in the Indian ocean. Even distant economies traverse sea lanes as part of their supply chain commitments. The economic reality of globalization is that we are not merely more regional but actually more active even beyond in search of markets and resources. This is especially so for major economies whose footprints have grown steadily, often in an overlapping manner. Economically therefore, the separation of the Indian and Pacific oceans as distinct compartments looks less and less tenable. We are quite visibly in each others’ proximity and to pretend otherwise is unrealistic.
  1. 4.The political dimension of the Indo-Pacific is equally strong but has a very different logic. Simply put, the separation of the Pacific from the Indian ocean theatre was a direct outcome of American strategic dominance after 1945. As the power distribution has diversified in the last two decades, changes were inevitable on this score as well. The re-positioning of the US, the rise of China as also of India, the greater external engagement of Japan and Australia, the wider interests of South Korea and indeed, the broader outlook of the ASEAN have all contributed to this transformation. Some of it has also been driven by concerns for the global commons. It is no longer feasible for any one country to assume all the burdens. A more collaborative outlook that transcends the orthodoxy of earlier theatres is the need of the day. At the end of the day, this is about recognizing the realities of globalization and the consequences of re-balancing. Only those whose mindsets are built around spheres of influence and uncomfortable with the democratization of world affairs will dispute the Indo-Pacific today.
  1. 5.Let me now talk about how India sees the Indo-Pacific, its growth and its opportunities. We consider Indo-Pacific as a region extending from the Eastern shores of Africa to the Western shores of America. This is an increasingly seamless space that is home to more than 64% of global population and contributes over 60% of global GDP. About half of the global trade happens through the maritime trade routes in this region. Over the years, this region has seen strong and sustained economic growth spreading across the Pacific rim, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Gulf region and the East and Southern Coast of Africa. More integration and more collaboration will only add to prosperity and progress.
  1. 6.Our Indo-Pacific vision builds on India’s Act East Policy that I have explained and the doctrine of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) articulated by our Prime Minister in 2015. We envisage a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region built on a rules-based international order, sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment, freedom of navigation and over-flight, unimpeded lawful commerce, mutual respect for sovereignty, peaceful resolution of disputes, as well as equality of all nations.
  1. 7.To give concrete shape to India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific, India has moved on many fronts simultaneously. At the multilateral level, Prime Minister announced the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) at the 14th East Asia Summit (EAS) held in Bangkok, Thailand on 4th November 2019. At a regional and plurilateral level, we have actively fostered the QUAD mechanism as well as some important trilateral arrangements. And of course, our bilateral engagement with individual countries of the Indo-Pacific have intensified. Let me make clear that India envisages the ASEAN to be at the centre of the Indo-Pacific, both literally and substantively. Our ASEAN partners will surely note that our interactions with them have grown, not reduced, as a result of the Indo-Pacific.  
  1. 8.Insofar as the IPOI is concerned, its focus is on a collaborative effort to better manage, conserve, sustain and secure the maritime domain. It envisages this cooperation under seven pillars namely, Maritime Security, Maritime Ecology, Maritime Resources, Capacity Building and Resource Sharing, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation and Trade, Connectivity and Maritime Transport. Notably, it is an appropriate fit for the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) that was adopted during Thailand’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2019. We are committed to implement the synergies between our Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) to achieve a sustainable future in synchronisation with the national goals of all EAS partner countries. This is reflected in the joint statement between ASEAN and India adopted during the 18th ASEAN-India Summit held on October 28, 2021.
  1. 9.India’s IPOI does not envisage to create a new institutional framework and will rely on the Leaders-led EAS framework and its activities. It is envisaged to be structure-light and cooperation-heavy. Without being caught up with institutional differences, we are willing to work with everyone in the region. Countries in Indo-Pacific Region and even other regions like Europe have announced their vision or guidelines of the Indo-Pacific. Harmonising these various perspectives is surely possible when there is genuine commitment to international cooperation. India’s approach towards Indo-Pacific under the IPOI looks at establishing a safe, secure and stable maritime domain. Some of the EAS countries have already taken a lead on the various pillars of the IPOI e.g. Australia on Maritime Ecology Pillar, Japan on Connectivity, Indonesia and France on Marine Resource Pillar, Singapore on Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation and United Kingdom on Maritime Security.
  1. 10.We are constructing practical result-oriented cooperation among the EAS participating countries within existing architecture and initiatives, while also exploring new ideas of maritime cooperation. Towards effective promotion and implementation of Indo Pacific Vision, we have for example recently organised Seminar on IUU Fishing, Marine Pollution especially Marine Plastic Debris jointly with Australia and Singapore and the 5th EAS conference on Maritime Security Cooperation in September 2021.
  1. 11.There are autonomously other developments also taking place that can help nurture cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. On the economic side, the in-principle decision to initiate the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is a significant development. Further consultations are taking place among its 14 members to give concrete shape to it. The flexibility and inclusivity of that process will be central to its success. Another interesting effort is the Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative that concentrates on maritime safety, IUU fishing and consequences of natural disasters. This too can help fill many current gaps in the region.
  1. 12.The QUAD is the most prominent plurilateral platform that addresses contemporary challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific. It has in recent years been meeting at the highest level, itself an indication of how substantive its work has become. The energies of the QUAD are directed at a broad range of activities. They range from maritime safety and security, HADR, cyber security, critical and emerging technologies and connectivity to education, health and space cooperation. Its role in the delivery of public goods can be significant. We are confident that the entire Indo-Pacific region will benefit from its activities. And that is validated by the growing recognition of its importance in the international community. If there are reservations in any quarter, these stem from a desire to exercise a veto on the choices of others. And possibly a unilateralist opposition to a collective and cooperative endeavour.
  1. 13.While the Indo-Pacific has a strong maritime connotation, there are continental developments which have a direct bearing on its future. I refer here particularly to the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway that has the potential of creating a completely new axis of economic activity in Asia. The IMTT project has had its fair share of challenges but we are determined to bring it to an early conclusion. Already, countries to the East of Myanmar have expressed interest in getting connected to it. Such a lateral connectivity can radically expand the interface between South Asia and South-East Asia, to the mutual benefit of both.
  1. 14.So, where does Thailand and our relationship fit into the vision and agenda of the Indo-Pacific. I would suggest to you that it does so both as a partner and as an exemplar. You are all aware that for us, Thailand is a civilizational neighbour, as also an economic, political, maritime and increasingly, a strategic neighbour. One has to only look back at history to appreciate the longstanding closeness of our people and traditions. In recent years, we have added more dimensions to our ties, including the security one. Even this trip is a reflection of that development, since I co-chaired our Joint Commission with DPM and FM Don Pramudwinai. But I would urge you to think in more big picture terms, keeping the long view in mind.
  1. 15.India-Thailand cooperation is best symbolized by King Chulalongkorn himself, after whom this University is named. He had paid a Royal visit to India in 1872 and subsequently in the year 1915. We were also, thereafter honored to receive another Royal visit from Thailand by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI), the founder of this University. This University is associated with great Indian nationalists, among them Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. They fought for Asia’s identity and interests in much more difficult times. I mention them because today, the prospects for the global order depend very much on a more equitable and democratic distribution of power and resources. For that to happen, the world must be more multi-polar. And such a multi-polar world must necessarily have a multi-polar Asia at its centre. This will happen only if we Asian countries consolidate our independence and expand our freedom of choice. Thailand, in many ways, has been an example in this respect, navigating even the most complex conflicts of the 20th Century. Our expectation is that individually, bilaterally and collectively with the ASEAN, we contribute to the emergence of a more stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
  1. 16.I would therefore very much hope that this University can help build closer cooperation with India, keeping in mind that this is an important aspect of the larger changes underway. It is laudable that the Chulalongkorn University and the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU) of India are also collaborating on a research project, “Arunothai”, to exchange knowledge in language, art, culture, and society, and to strengthen the relationship between Thailand and India.
  1. 17.The Indo-Pacific region traces a wide arc of immense diversity, but with specific dynamics. Thailand is a key ASEAN state and the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. Our time-tested bilateral relations are poised to move to the next level. We are marking the 75th year of our diplomatic relations since you were among our earliest partners of the independent era. We work not just in the ASEAN framework, but in a range of other contexts including the BIMSTEC of which Thailand has now become the Chair. We have a strong and vibrant Indian-origin community in Thailand, which has been a bridge between the two countries. India looks forward to work closely with Thailand for its active participation in the implementation of India’s Indo Pacific Vision.
  1. 18.With these words, I thank each and every participant for their interest and initiative. We hope to have the continued support and engagement of the Thai people, particularly the younger generation, in future so that our two peoples find our partnership mutually beneficial and we can contribute to global peace, progress and harmony.

Thank you.

Khop Khun Khap!