Indo-Pacific region is ‘a web of interdependencies’: Army Chief

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the Indo-Pacific is no more a maritime construct, but a “full-fledged geo-strategic construct”

Updated - September 26, 2023 09:47 pm IST

Published - September 26, 2023 01:20 pm IST - New Delhi

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande speaks during a joint press conference with US Army’s Chief of Staff General Randy (unseen) on the sidelines of the 13th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference, 47th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar and 9th Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum, in New Delhi on September 26, 2023.

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande speaks during a joint press conference with US Army’s Chief of Staff General Randy (unseen) on the sidelines of the 13th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference, 47th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar and 9th Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum, in New Delhi on September 26, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Indo-Pacific region is not merely a collection of nations but a “web of interdependencies”, Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande said on Tuesday. He said that apart from challenges exclusively in the maritime domain, a wide range of security and humanitarian concerns exist on land while making a tacit reference to China’s land reclamation in South China Sea without directly naming it.

Terming land power as “decisive”, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen Randy George stressed the need to deepen “unity and collective commitment.”

Also read: India is an indispensable partner for free and open Indo-Pacific: Japanese Foreign Minister

Both the Chiefs were addressing a press conference on the 13th Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference (IPACC) that India is hosting for the first time along with the US and involves 30 countries with 20 Chiefs present. The 47th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS) and 9th Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum (SELF) are also being held alongside the IPACC.

“Apart from challenges exclusively in the maritime domain, a wide range of security and humanitarian concerns exist on land, too. These range from territorial disputes over land masses, or in some cases even over artificially expanded islands to acquire real estate and establish military bases, trans-national threats of terrorism, consequences of climate change impacting the inhabited islands or coastal areas of rim nations and natural calamities,” Gen Pande said addressing the opening session.

He said these challenges are manifesting as threats, singularly or plurally, impacting one or more nations and stressed that cooperation amongst land forces, hence is a critical component of the collective response. “Though, bilateral and multilateral engagements between components of armed forces of our nations have been ongoing, this forum provides a collective platform to share perspectives, comprehend unique manifestations, identify priorities, and aggregate our response methodology,” Gen Pande said.

In response to a question from The Hindu on China’s rapid expansion in the region, Gen George said this region is “critically important” to the US. “It’s why we are out here and why, I think, we exercise more than anywhere else in the Pacific to build all of this. What this conference proves and what we are after here is unity and commitment and the strength here... That’s what we are focussed on here, is building that with the countries that are here.”

Addressing the conference, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the Indo-Pacific is no more a maritime construct, but a “full-fledged geo-strategic construct”, and noted that the region is facing a complex web of security challenges, including boundary disputes and piracy.

Gen Pande said the region is bound by geography, and destinies are “intertwined”. The security and prosperity of one nation is intrinsically linked to the security and prosperity of its neighbours, and much beyond, he said. “Therefore, each one of us has an important and a pivotal role to play.”

Land power not only contributes to our shared security, Gen George said terming it decisive. The land power network, that all the Chiefs at IPACC are building is the “security architecture” that binds this region together, he said, adding “That leads to unity and collective commitment across the region… And that unity and commitment are the best deterrence.”

To another question on the lessons from the war in Ukraine and discussions over it, the US Army Chief said the biggest lesson is the importance of having partners and allies. On the important aspects of interoperability, he said there are two aspects to it. One is the technical aspect and the other is how you exercise together and the relationships that one has, he stated.

The IPACC has been a biennial convention since 1999, while IPAMS and SELF have been an annual event since 1978 and 2013, respectively.

In a parallel development, the 19th edition of India-US bilateral Army exercise Yudh Abhyas commenced on Monday at Fort Wainwright, Alaska in the US with the theme ‘employment of an integrated battle group in mountain/extreme climatic conditions’ under Chapter VII of United Nations mandate’ and will go on till October 08. The previous edition was hosted by India at Auli in Uttarakhand, India last November.

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