- India stands for a free, open, inclusive & rules-based Indo-Pacific
- Our efforts to build robust military partnerships with friendly countries underscore our commitment to safeguard national interests & address global challenges
Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh, in his inaugural address at the 13th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs’ Conference (IPACC) held in New Delhi on September 26, 2023, emphasized the need for collective wisdom and concerted efforts to address the complexities of the Indo-Pacific Region. He stressed the importance of realizing the full potential of the region to ensure a future characterized by prosperity, security, and inclusivity. He framed this vision in alignment with the ancient Indian ethos of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The World is One Family) and the G-20 motto ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. Notably, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande, and Chiefs of Armies, along with delegates from 35 countries, were present at the conference.
Shri Rajnath Singh pointed out that the Indo-Pacific has evolved from being merely a maritime concept to a comprehensive geo-strategic construct. He acknowledged that the region faces a complex web of security challenges, including boundary disputes and piracy. To illustrate his perspective, he drew upon a theoretical model by American author and speaker Mr. Stephen R. Covey, which revolves around two circles: the ‘Circle of Concern’ and the ‘Circle of Influence’.
The ‘Circle of Concern’ encompasses everything that nations care about, including elements within their control and those outside their control. It encompasses a wide array of external factors and issues, such as global events, economic conditions, opinions of other nations, weather, and various aspects of life. On the other hand, the ‘Circle of Influence’ comprises elements over which nations have direct control or can exert some degree of influence. This may involve their attitudes, behaviors, decisions, relationships, and actions.
Applying this model to international relations, the Raksha Mantri explained, “There may be instances when the ‘circles of concern’ of different nations overlap with each other. For example, international maritime trade routes passing through high seas, beyond the Exclusive Economic Zones of any country, are relevant examples. This can either result in conflict between nations or they can decide to coexist by mutually deciding the rules of engagement. The concept of these circles underscores the importance of strategic thinking and prioritization.”
Shri Rajnath Singh stressed that states must recognize that global issues involve multiple stakeholders, and no single country can address these challenges in isolation. He emphasized the need to engage with the broader international community and collaborate through diplomacy, international organizations, and treaties to tackle common concerns within the overlapping ‘Circles of Concern’. He cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, as a successful example of an international agreement that establishes the legal framework for maritime activities and addresses issues arising from overlapping ‘circles of concern’ among different nations.
The Raksha Mantri emphasized that states should also identify and expand their ‘Circle of Influence’ to promote their national interests on the global stage. This may involve building partnerships, participating in regional organizations, and strategically employing diplomatic, economic, or military tools. He stated, “This conference is an exercise where we all are trying to expand our ‘Circles of Influence’ while harmonizing the overlaps of our ‘circles of concern’.”
Shri Rajnath Singh described the IPACC, Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS), and Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum (SELF) as one of the largest brainstorming events for land forces in the region. He highlighted that these events provide a unique opportunity to establish common perspectives, work towards a shared vision, and build and strengthen partnerships in the spirit of collaborative security.
The Raksha Mantri reiterated India’s commitment to a free, open, inclusive, and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region, in line with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s vision based on the five ‘S’s: Sammaan (Respect), Samvad (Dialogue), Sahyog (Cooperation), Shanti (Peace), and Samridhi (Prosperity). He emphasized that India’s approach to the region is defined by its ‘Act East Policy’.
Shri Rajnath Singh also highlighted India’s efforts to build robust military partnerships with friendly nations to safeguard national interests and address global challenges, particularly in the context of climate change. He noted that the Indian Armed Forces play a crucial role as first responders in disaster situations and contribute to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts.
The Raksha Mantri suggested that during the three-day event, discussions should focus on enhancing interoperability during HADR operations. He emphasized the importance of addressing climate change-related concerns, especially for small island nations in the Indo-Pacific, which bear the brunt of climate change as an existential crisis. He stressed the need for climate-resilient and eco-friendly infrastructure and called for sharing expertise and resources among partner nations.
Shri Rajnath Singh acknowledged that arriving at a consensus plan of action within a large group can be challenging but not impossible with determination and empathy. He cited the recent G-20 summit as an example of countries adopting the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration with consensus on developmental and geopolitical issues, making it a historic and path-breaking event.
The 13th IPACC, 47th IPAMS, and 9th SELF are being co-hosted by the Indian Army and the United States Army in New Delhi from September 25th to 27th, 2023. The central theme of the forum is ‘Together for Peace: Sustaining Peace and Stability in the Indo-Pacific Region.’ This conference provides a platform for Army Chiefs and senior-level leaders from land forces in the Indo-Pacific region to exchange ideas and views on security and contemporary issues. The primary goal of the forum is to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship among the littoral partners.