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Indo-Pacific: 'A line of confrontation between China and the US, not between China and India'
The Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi and Centre for Vietnam Studies (CVS) jointly organized a daylong conference on "Challenges and Opportunities for India in the Indo-Pacific Region" Monday 8 October, 2018 at the CVS Conference room. Senior diplomats, high level officers and members of policy bodies and academia spoke about different challenges, issues as well as opportunities for India in the Indo-Pacific Region.

HE Mr Pham Sanh Chau, Ambassador – Designate, Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam delivered a special address highlighting the significance of India's relations with Vietnam as partners in history and common good. He said that Vietnam was willing to participate in any initiative and/or join any regional grouping or structure provided that that initiative has to impress the four fundamental elements of peace to ensure the grouping is peaceful. First, it should be inclusive, that is open to everybody. Second, it should respect international law, including law of the sea. Third, it should not be a grouping or meeting of only two major countries: Indonesia and Vietnam but, it should also bring in ASEAN which has ten countries. Fourth, it should respect independence of individual countries.

Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan (Retd), Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi flashed important points on the Maritime Challenges & Opportunities for India in the Indo-Pacific Region. He asserted that since China heavily depended on external merchandise-trade, its "economic growth demands ever greater resources of raw materials and petroleum-based energy," therefore the bulk of its imports of these resources are being drawn from increasingly distant areas that are either accessible only by sea or where seaborne transit offers the most cost-effective movement in terms of volume, time and space.

Although the USA has allowed itself to be hopelessly outplayed in the South China Sea (SCS), "Xi Jinping is highly unlikely to be satisfied with China being merely a SCS power", Mr Chauhan said adding that with the geographic competition between India and China coinciding in the India Ocean, this is the 'probable theatre of confrontation' adding that instead of India's it is the "USA's next defensive line".

It is in this backdrop that China is widening its connectivity for which Belt & Road Initiative and ASEAN Master Plan for Connectivity are important. In order "to attain its geo-economic objectives China is working on "Extractive" model of connectivity" while India is working on an "Inclusive" model in its geo-strategy, Mr Chauhan said. He also outlined the challenges of physical connectivity that China has been grappling with, and stated that India was not throwing capacity but capability in its foreign policy pursuits. An AVSM, VSM, the former senior Indian Navy officer acknowledged Islam's role in terms of cultural development.

Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar chaired a session on "Stakes and Perspectives of Global and Regional Powers" in which Prof Baladas Ghoshal, Prof Srikanth Kondapalli and Prof Sanjay Kumar Pandey provided rich insights. On the question of India's stand on Iran's position in the Indo-Pacific, Dr Gurpreet S. Khurana said, "Iran is a very important actor and an important part of India's look west and its think west policy" stating that we have to be 'very cautious' as there are practical functional hurdles. Elaborating on that he said that there are three actors there where India has to balance its relationships: Iran-Iran, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and Israel, with the set of complexities involved.

Chairing the session on "Economic, Security and Maritime Dimensions" Prof S. D. Muni emphasized the need for a holistic, inclusive model in which India should work on its strengths as a country with great diversities where role of Islam should be acknowledged and used in its global projection as a democracy that can serve as an ideal for other countries. Probably to this end he also suggested to have better relations with neighbouring countries looking at their hopes and promises from their perspectives rather than assuming them permanent enemies. 

Earlier, two sessions were devoted to "India's Vision of the Indo-Pacific Region" and the "Situation in the Korean Peninsula and Emerging Challenges". Dr Ash Narain Roy, Director, ISS and Prof Partha S. Ghosh, former Professor of South Asian Studies, JNU chaired the sessions. Lt. Gen (Retired) S. A. Hasnain, Chancellor of Central University of Kashmir delivered the Keynote Address during the inaugural session. Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Senior Assistant Editor, Economic Times; Dr Rajaram Panda, Lok Sabha Research Fellow; Dr Jojin John of Indian Council of World Affairs and Dr Shreya Pandey, Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library contributed with well researched papers.

Dr Sonu Trivedi, Honorary Director of CVS, research scholars, journalists and students in a good number participated in the conference.

(Author is a PhD student at Jamia Millia Islamia)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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