New Delhi: India on Wednesday said connectivity should "defuse" national rivalries and not add to regional tensions, stressing there should be no place for use or threat of use of force in disputes.
In his address at the Raisina Dialogue, a joint initiative of the Ministry of External Affairs and a leading think tank, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar pitched for better connectivity among countries of Asia, asserting India was no longer content to be a passive recipient of outcomes.
The comments assume significance in the wake of reports that China has stationed up to five ships around a disputed atoll in the South China Sea.
Without naming any country, he said there was a need for discipline and restraint to ensure standards of behaviour "by and between States" and that all disputes must be resolved peacefully.
"We need the discipline and restraint that ensure standards of behaviour, especially by and between States that jostle to widen their respective spaces in an increasingly inter-connected continent.
"Respect for the global commons should not be diluted under any circumstances. Much depends on the commitment of nations to uphold freedom of navigation and peaceful resolution of disputes. There should be no place for use or threat of use of force," he said at the dialogue the central theme of which is connectivity.
Noting that connectivity was crucial for overall development of the region, he said India was no longer contentto be a passive recipient of outcomes and that its growing capabilities and "stronger national branding" makes it a credible partner in the world.
"Connectivity itself has emerged as a theatre of present day geopolitics. When diplomats get agitated about lines on the map today, they are more likely to be discussing proposed road connections, rail lines, oil pipelines or maritime routes than contesting national boundaries," he said.
The Foreign Secretary said connectivity "should defuse national rivalries, not add to regional tensions.
"This is an issue that actually resonates beyond Asia because the rest of the world appreciates that the economic centre of gravity is shifting towards the continent."
Emphasising on open minded consultation on the future of connectivity, Jaishankar talked about how important the Gulf region is for India and that its energy dependence on the region was dictated more by markets than by policy.
Apparently hinting at Pakistan, Jaishankar said there have been visible obstructions to the picture of growing connectivity towards India's north west and that normalisation of situation in Iran was welcome.
"The absence of transit rights there is an impediment to trade, energy flows and economic integration. Normalisation of the situation in Iran is, therefore, particularly welcome.
"We are working to invest in the Chabahar port, join the Ashgabat Agreement and participate in the International North South Transport Corridor. Combined with other ambitious bilateral initiatives, they could be game changers in Central Asia — a part of the world that historically and culturally has strong affinity with India," he said.
Talking about India's initiative to improve connectivity, he said, "We should also accept that our models of economic growth in the past have not laid adequate emphasis on building connectivity.
"Since competitiveness was not the primary driving force, neither was efficiency the preferred outcome. There are today enough examples that highlight what investment in connectivity can do to propel economic growth and social change. Not surprisingly, this has become a major focus of the strategy within," he said.
The Foreign Secretary touched upon a range of issues including various connectivity projects, saying they can impart new momentum to SAARC and propel it to a higher orbit of cooperation.