An idea that will reduce India’s role

P.S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE: Singapore Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean on Sunday emphasised the continuing relevance of the United States to the security and stability of the wider East Asian region that would include India. And, on that note, the seventh Asia Security Summit, organised here by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies in the name of ‘Shangri-La Dialogue,’ concluded on Sunday.

Mr. Teo was responding to a proposal that China, Japan, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) could join in “a flying geese formation” to ensure peace and security across the wider East Asian region.

Singapore holds the ASEAN Chair; and U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates asserted at the main plenary of this conference that America “is a resident Asian power” and would stay on in this continent.

Seen in this context, the idea of “a flying geese formation,” suggested by a delegate from Bangladesh, with links to the government there, not only excludes the U.S. from the wider East Asian region but also reduces the importance of India.

Regional security

If the SAARC, instead of India, is to team up with China and Japan, the other two major East Asian powers, to ensure regional security, New Delhi’s role in this sensitive sphere will effectively diminish from that of a prime mover to that of just a member of the South Asian grouping. This aspect, in addition to the omission of the U.S. and others that was brought to light by Mr. Teo, needs to be addressed, according to diplomatic observers.

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