By Rajnath Singh
At the outset, I would like to compliment all members of the ADMM Plus (ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting Plus) on the tenth anniversary of this forum. I would also like to make special mention of Vietnam, the chair of the ADMM Plus for the extraordinary efforts to commemorate this occasion.
It is only appropriate that the celebrations of the tenth anniversary take place where the first ADMM plus meeting took place on Oct. 12, 2010.
Amid the current regional environment with visible strains, we appreciate the central role of ASEAN-led forums, including ADMM Plus in promoting dialogue and engagement towards a pluralistic, cooperative security order in Asia.
The ADMM Plus has grown in the last decade to become the fulcrum of peace, stability and rules based order in this region.
The concepts of ‘vasudhaive kutumbakam’ – ‘the whole world is one family and ‘sarve bhavantu sukhinah’ – ‘all be at peace’ are the core of the Indian civilisation. Therefore inclusivity, equality and openness are the principles underlining this concept.
As we enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, will go a long way in bringing sustained peace to the region.
The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific underscores this impetus to cultivate strategic trust and continuously promote ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture.
Our collective achievement in the past decade has been remarkable in advancing multilateral cooperation through strategic dialogue and practical security cooperation.
Our composition is another pillar of our strength as it includes defence ministries of 18 key countries that are major stake holders in the regional security dynamic.
Our seven expert working groups co-chaired by an ASEAN and one Plus country on a rotational basis have resulted in sharing of best practices in key domains.
Exercises in maritime security, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, counter terrorism and peacekeeping operations bring together militaries of the members to jointly train and build confidence.
The experts working group on humanitarian mine action promotes practical and effective cooperation in dealing with consequences of explosive remnants of war in the region.
Cyber security and military medicine are at the forefront of our challenges today. Another notable step has been the adoption of the concept paper on expanding ASEAN Direct Communication Infrastructure to the Plus countries.
We also need to continue our efforts to address the threats of bioterrorism, transnational trafficking and pandemic diseases. Here, I would like to reiterate the importance of the support of the military establishments of our respective countries to their civilian law enforcement counterparts.
Our joint statement on Advancing Partnership for Sustainable Security in 2019 reflected the commitment of the ADMM Plus Defence Ministers to the maintenance of regional peace, stability and security.
As we stand at the threshold of adopting this year’s joint statement, I reiterate our objective to build capacity to address shared security challenges.
These challenges are becoming increasingly trans-boundary in character and we need to forge closer military-to-military interactions and cooperation among the ADMM Plus countries.
The conduct of field training exercises and table-top exercises among the ADMM Plus countries are important tools for us to understand each other, cooperate to enhance security and maintain peace in the region.
The relevance of ADMM Plus in the future remains defined by the important role we play in bringing diverse countries together towards a common goal.
Our ability, to collectively respond to challenges in the region based on the fundamentals of freedom, inclusivity and openness will define our future.
Threats to the rules based order, maritime security, cyber related crimes and terrorism, just to name a few, remain the challenges that we need to address as a forum.
Among the new challenges that have emerged, COVID-19 has changed the world and left us many hurdles to overcome. Unfortunately the disruptive effect of the pandemic is still unfolding.
The challenge is therefore to make sure that the world economy moves on the path of recovery and when it does gather steam, to ensure that the recovery leaves no one behind.
It has forced us all to re-assess our healthcare infrastructure, focus on availability and affordability of vaccines and medicines, development of reliable supply chains, and highlighted the need for strong collaborations in medical research.
Since the virus does not respect national boundaries, the response to the pandemic also needs to be collective and collaborative.
We are also aware of the efforts of our ASEAN friends in fighting this pandemic.
It is our common challenge which requires endeavors at all levels. We appreciate efforts of all the participants and are constantly looking at imbibing the best practices as institutionalized by the members in fighting COVID-19.
(Excerpted from India’s Minister of Defence’s address to the Association of South East Asian Nations‘ Defence Minister Meeting Plus forum via video-conferencing today)