Increased maritime security in the form of an integrated ASEAN Coast Guard and efforts by India to reduce conflict zones with China would result in an improved safety net for sea trade in the Indian Ocean, said experts at the International Conference on India-ASEAN Partnership held at Gitam University on Saturday.
In a conversation with TOI, professor Ajay Patnaik, dean of JNU’s School of International Studies, said India must forge stronger ties with the ASEAN region, adding that both India and China must build a healthy relationship “based on mutual benefit and not by paying heed to externally-inspired narratives”.
“India should create its own parallel zones both in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, along the lines of a necklace. We need not even indulge in any sabre-rattling. By building stronger trading ties with ASEAN, we could build a firm bridge to increase and improve trade with China. India can also make its presence felt in Central Asia by creating a sea and land route from the Persian Gulf all the way into Azerbaijan till the Caspian Sea,” Patnaik said, adding that China’s proposed Silk Route need not be seen as a threat and must instead be taken as an opportunity for growth.
Prabhakaran Paleri, former DGP of the Coast Guard, said a Sagarmala-2 would be a dream come true for India. The DGP told TOI that an integrated ASEAN Coast Guard would provide the much-desired safety net for sea trade and traffic in the region.
Prabhakaran said India was uniquely poised to play a leading role in creating an exlusive, integrated ASEAN Coast Guard. “Our Coast Guard has the much-needed experience and expertise, and creating an integrated Coast Guard in the region along the lines of NATO would safeguard the interests of ASEAN countries which are heavily dependent on sea routes for trade and commerce,” Prabhakaran said.
“Though the proposal might meet with international objections, India has to push it through. We talk about how the policy has shifted from Look East to Drive East, but for such a policy to take shape we need to show intent and commitment to safeguard the interests of our neighbourhood,” the former DGP said.
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