New Delhi: Amidst the aggressive and unpredictable behaviour of China, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) want India to take and play leadership role in improving commerce, connectivity and security in the region.
This was the common viewpoint expressed by speakers from the ASEAN nations at the academic session on the second day of the two-day Delhi Dialogue on Wednesday.
Themed on ‘ASEAN-India Relations: Charting the Course for the Next 25 Years,’ the event, held annually since 2009, discusses politico-security, economic and socio-cultural engagement between ASEAN and India.
Speaking in the session Regional geo-politics: Great power politics in the Asia-Pacific, Dr Anak Agung Banyu Perwita, professor, School of International Relations, President University, Indonesia, said following the uncertain behaviour of China, Indian Ocean had become unpredictable and could become the next battle ground.
He said the new political leadership in both India and Indonesia were quite strong in taking firm decisions and they could play a vital role in checking Chinese behaviour.
Prof Perwita even suggested that Indonesia could play the role of “power broker” between India and China if required.
Prof Nguyen Thai Yen Huong, vice president, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, said most ASEAN countries still expect the US to play the major role it had been playing since World War II. Saying Asia Pacific is “beyond tranquillity”, Prof Huong said the challenge is to maintain status quo in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
She said India should assist ASEAN mechanisms to help maintain status quo and stability in the region.
Bunn Nagara, senior fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia, said it was “a historic mistake by China” to stir South China Sea as the ASEAN had good relations with China. He said China should not have done that.
He also said the ASEAN nations were looking towards India for initiatives and new ideas to improve relationships, and wondered why “relations can’t be better”.
Rajiv Bhatia, a former ambassador and now distinguished fellow of Gateway House, a think-tank suggested the need for the ASEAN nations to be united to be the centrality of the geo-strategic politics of the region.
Speaking on the session on New connectivity paradigms in the Asia Pacific, Dr Deth Sok Udom, rector of President Zaman University, Cambodia, hoped next 25 years would bring better connectivity, physical and digital, between India and ASEAN nations. He suggested cooperation in the nuclear energy and cooperation in cyber security which had become more vital because of the digitalisation of economies.
Anita Prakash, director general of policy department, ERIA, Indonesia, said national boundaries and interests should be reconciled for larger interest of the region and India should take the lead in improving India-ASEAN connectivity. She noted that this is important for Asia-Pacific connectivity as well.
Dr. Joefe B. Santarita, dean of Asian Centre, University of the Philippines, wanted India to play a bigger role in its engagement with blue economy. “Right now it is unfortunately very limited,” he remarked. He suggested that India could take assistance of Philippines in the sea-bed mapping and mining.
Political leaders, policy makers, senior officials, diplomats, business leaders, think tanks and academicians from both India and ASEAN participated in the discussions.
The dialogue is organised by the ministry of external affairs in collaboration with Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). While ORF organised the academic sessions, FICCI organised the business sessions.