Underscoring the fact that as the main resident power India had a vital stake in the Indian Ocean region, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao suggested that all stakeholders, who have a legitimate presence here should contribute to regional security.

Ruling out the inevitability of conflict — a theme often talked about in media, she said India viewed the emerging trends with realism — building a sustainable regional security would require a cooperative effort among all regional countries on the one hand and all users of the Indian Ocean.

“As the main resident power in the Indian Ocean region, we have a vital stake in the evolution of a stable, open, inclusive and balanced security and cooperation architecture in the region. By definition this would need to be a consensus-based process, where all the stakeholders who have a legitimate presence in the region make their respective contributions to regional security,” she said in her lecture on ‘India as a Consensual Stake Holder in the Indian Ocean: Policy Contours' organised by the National Maritime Foundation on Friday.

Outlining India's vision, she emphasised that the country stood for harnessing the forces of geo-politics for new forms of cooperation rather than using them as an excuse for domination by a single country.

Major trade by sea

Ms. Rao said as an emerging global economic and trading power, India had a vital stake in maritime security, especially since global mercantile trade now constituted 41 per cent of the GDP.

Of this, 77 per cent of the trade and over 90 per cent by volume was carried by sea. Now 70 per cent of crude and oil products are being carried through the Indian Ocean.

Amid increasing voices from the West that India assume a greater role in the region, Ms. Rao said while the country was seen as a net security provider, it could not carry the burden of regional security on its shoulders alone.

However, she said that considering its defence and security interests as also the role and responsibility expected of India by the international community, a credible naval presence with adequate assets would have to be developed.

“The era of gun boat diplomacy is long over. A robust Indian naval presence is seen as a necessary contribution to a cooperative regional security order,” she said, adding that the cooperative burden sharing of naval forces to fight piracy off the Somalia coast, was a case in point. At the same time, she said while addressing the threats posed by non-State actors was important, States should also abide by the “rules of the road” requiring common vision of maritime security and freedom of navigation in accordance with universally agreed principles of international law.