India for rule-based approach in the Indo-Pacific: Sarna

Washington, May 15 (PTI): The Indo-Pacific is of huge importance to India and the world as the fulcrum of economic and political activity is moving from the Atlantic to this region, India’s envoy to the US has said and called for a rule-based approach to reap benefits for all.
Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Singh Sarna said the entire blue economy was virtually untouched in terms of exploration and development.
“It (Indo-Pacific region) has a huge importance, not only in India but for the world because as you see the fulcrum of economic and political activity, is moving to from the Atlantic to this part of the world,” he told a Washington audience yesterday.
He said there was a huge potential for peace and prosperity for everybody in the region.
“Whether it is the percentage of oil that goes through this area, percentage of container traffic that goes through this area, or the challenges being faced from piracy, whether you see the immense potential of the blue economy,” he said in his address at the launch of the Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Trilateral Forum.
“And I think, India certainly sees it from that perspective. We see this as an area in which it’s important to have an inclusive approach; an approach which is rules-based,” the Indian envoy said.
Referring to India’s long-standing relationship with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the top Indian diplomat said that the centrality of grouping has to be “appreciated, maintained” and also utilised.
The connectivity both physical and digital is “immense”, he said.
“We have been building highways and multi model-projects in Myanmar for instance, and then there is an India-Thailand-Myanmar trilateral project, which is nearing completion,” he said.
“So, connectivity, keeping the sea lanes open, and creating digital connectivity in terms of highways, platforms and most norms, development of digital norms for the Indio-Pacific, which answers to the call of cybersecurity. I think these very important projects on which a huge amount of work remains to be done,” he said.
“It is very important to see the potential of the Indo-Pacific on its own need. Because if you make it simply as a response, you get the ascude response. I think it’s important to develop that,” Sarna said.
The development in the Indo-Pacific region, he stressed, has to be inclusive, it has to be multi polar, and it has to be according to international norms.
Sarna’s remarks assume significance amid China flexing its muscles in the area.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea. The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.
Explaining international norms, Sarna said if a project like port is in a particular country then surely that port must answer to international project financing norms. It should be something that should not take away the sovereignty of that particular country.
“It is something, which should be demand driven,” Sarna said.