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Indian politician calls for west Asia security forum

Gulf Times

Wednesday, 21 March, 2007, 08:38 AM Doha Time

Sinha (right) speaks at the conference as (from left) Koike, HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor al-Thani and General Clark share the dais

Staff Reporter
THE time has come to create a west Asia regional forum to tackle security concerns, senior Indian politician Yashwant Sinha suggested at the Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future conference at the Ritz yesterday.
“We could follow the pattern, which has emerged in east Asia under the aegis of the Asian Regional Forum,” explained the former foreign, and finance minister, who is presently the foreign policy head of the principal opposition, the Bharathiya Janata Party.
Addressing the opening session on ‘The Asian Powers and Gulf Security,’ and substantiating his call for the new forum, Sinha stated there should be a constant dialogue between Asian powers and the Gulf countries that are also an integral part of Asia.
Referring to the security concerns, he noted that the security of the Gulf energy assets, both onshore and offshore, and of the maritime routes and sea-lanes carrying energy supplies to Asian countries, is of paramount importance.
Recalling that India has been called upon to shoulder the responsibilities for guarding the security of the sea-lanes in the region of the Malacca Straits, Sinha suggested that the experience gathered by the Indian navy could, perhaps, contribute to a regional effort from the Hormuz to the Malaccas.
“Given that the Gulf region is especially linked with the rest of Asia on its east, especially Japan, South Korea, China and India through its energy exports, a dialogue between Asian producers and importers of energy assumes importance, and this should go on,” the speaker stressed.
Mooting that the financial architecture governing trade and energy co-operation should be discussed at a separate Asian forum, Sinha maintained the role of the large reserves of foreign currency that Asian countries hold assumes great significance in this context.
“Free trade, an Asian Monetary Block, Asian bonds and the creation of more Asian financial hubs are other issues which could be discussed in this forum,” he said.
Referring to the Indo-Gulf relations, which dates back to a long time in history, Sinha pointed out that it is the natural compatibility of their respective comparative advantages that sets it apart.
“The abundant energy resources of the Gulf countries and India’s inexhaustible fund of talented people and the conditions conducive to extensive food production should ensure food security for the former, energy security for the latter and comprehensive security for the region,” he remarked.
The Gulf countries, which have 4.5mn Indian expatriates, provides 70% of India’s oil and gas needs.
“Our non-oil trade is worth over $20bn with this region, that has the potential of being a major investment partner of a growing and developing India,” the speaker pointed out.
Referring to the regional problems, Sinha, while recalling India’s historic support for the Palestinian cause, stressed the need for the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine within a reasonable timeframe, living in peace with Israel, with both countries having secure and recognised borders.
“We hope that the Middle East peace process would bring lasting peace to the region and address the final status issues on all tracks, including the Syrian and Lebanese tracks,” he said.
Sinha reminded that there could be no peace in west Asia with an unstable and burning Iraq.
“The solution to the Iraqi imbroglio must be found by the international community through the UN with the help of the Iraqi people without any further loss of time or lives,” he said.
The speaker observed that while Iran must abide by its commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency, no purpose is going to be served by threatening and coercing Iran to accept obligations beyond what they have already assumed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the additional protocols.
“Any misadventure either on the part of Iran or any other power on this issue will create a completely unmanageable situation in this area,” he warned.
Regarding the global terrorism problem, Sinha reiterated that countries, which still extend moral, ethical, financial and logistical support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, are doing a great disservice to humanity and must be disciplined.
The session moderated by retired general Wesley Clark (senior fellow, The UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations), had Planning Council secretary general HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jabor bin Jassim al-Thani, Japanese Prime Minister’s national security adviser Yuriko Koike, and China’s former ambassador to Lebanon, Liu Xianghua as the other speakers.

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