Asia : Building International Stability

Article excerpt

M.K. Narayanan is National Security Advisor, Republic of India. Mr. Narayanan made this presentation on February 10th before the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy. The inherent plurality and heterogeneity of Asia provide a fascinating backdrop to discuss a subject like international stability.

Undoubtedly, Asia presents a mixed picture for analysts and policymakers alike. This is not surprising given the marked contrasts evident across this huge landmass. To India's West, several countries to-day face turbulence. Central Asia appears relatively peaceful, but there are pockets where the appearance of calm can be deceptive. A great deal of volatility characterizes the situation in South Asia. South East Asia and East Asia on the other hand represent relative stability and economic growth.

Notwithstanding this, a few key countries of Asia have lent stability to their extended neighbourhoods. For instance, India's economic dynamism and intensified engagement of late have helped reinforce India's historical role as a benign and stabilizing force in Asia . India's vision of an open and inclusive Asia - based on dynamic interaction among Asia's varied regions and between Asia and the world at large - is also beginning to find a great deal of resonance across this region. India is thus a factor of stability not only in Asia but also far beyond the region.

The rise of Asia is accepted wisdom to-day. Less known is that in the pre-industrialized age, India and China taken together contributed more than half of the world's economic output. By most accounts, India and China would once again - within a few decades - account for 50% of the world's trade, income, savings and investments. Already, with 40% of the world's population, the economies of China and India wield considerable influence on global economic growth. Asia is thus re-claiming its position as the centre of gravity of global economic and, with it possibly, political power as well.

Asian economic dynamism is underpinned by several factors. It is, nevertheless, the phenomenon of the simultaneous rise of China and India, alongside that of Japan, and the emergence of Singapore and ASEAN as Asian dynamos, that presents an unprecedented opportunity for ensuring stability, and with it the hope of a new world order.

It is possibly difficult to find in history another occasion when so many nations and societies in close proximity to one another, have risen in a parallel timeframe. Asia's economic rise is thus a significant plus for international stability. For its part, India has adopted a policy premised on the view that an inter-locking network of close partnerships will help sustain economic and political dynamism in Asia.

For instance, in South Asia, India is actively engaged in strengthening the South Asian compact viz. SAARC which places maximum emphasis on economic, social, educational, health and political initiatives. This has vastly transformed the climate of relations in the South Asian region. Much more needs to be done and India is committed to this objective.

In the East, India views its current close ties with Japan as amongst the most significant of relationships. India and Japan are both open societies sharing common values and have perceived common interests.

Similarly, India is to-day engaged in expanding its strategic and cooperative partnerships with China. During PM Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Beijing the Prime Ministers of India and China signed a Joint Statement indicating their Shared Vision for the 21st Century which contains congruent perceptions of the future of the Asian region and the world at large. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed on the occasion of the visit that countries whose destinies are linked by geography and history, must seek tranquility and stability not only in their immediate neighbourhood but in the extended region as well. …