Joint RCSS-VIF-ITS Conference Emerging Strategic Dynamics in Indo-Pacific
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The Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RSCC), in collaboration with Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and Institute for Transnational Studies (ITS) of Germany, organised a two-day conference on 21-22 October 2016 in Colombo, on the theme ‘Emerging Strategic Dynamics in the Indo-Pacific’. Apart from these three institutions, speakers had been invited from India and the Philippines. Commodore Gopal Suri and Mr. Alvite Ningthoujam participated from the VIF side.

The Director of RCSS welcomed the delegates and in his opening remarks, emphasised the rising importance of Indo-Pacific in the military, economic, political and socio-cultural spheres. The rising influence of countries such as China and Japan apart from traditional powers like the United States (US) is another aspect which merits attention. Acknowledging the threats from non-states actors, the need to counter all forms of terrorism is a paramount issue of concern. The Director of ITS mentioned briefly about the relationships between the three think-tanks and he urged for more robust cooperation in the future and discuss topics of mutual interests. He also brought to the fore the importance accorded by the European Union (EU) to the Indo-Pacific region. The opening session was concluded with a keynote speech by the Japanese ambassador to Sri Lanka where he elaborately explained the new foreign policy initiative of Japan vis-a-vis ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’. He, also touched upon the existing tensions between states in the region, and talked of the necessity to have free and open seas. It is pertinent to mention that the Pakistan High Commissioner was present during this session as also during the closing session on the second day though he did not speak.

The first session addressed ‘Major Strategic Trends in Indo-Pacific’ where each of the speakers gave wide-ranging perspectives on the current issues concerning the region. The role of China in the region was widely discussed by almost all the speakers. Furthermore, the cooperation between China and Pakistan on projects such as CPEC and its implications were analysed critically. India’s Act East Policy and the need to keep its focus on its immediate neighbourhood in South and Southeast Asia was discussed in detail.

The second session titled ‘OBOR-Vision, Significance and Feasibility’ involved discussions on the different dimensions of One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiatives. One of the speakers was of the view that “OBOR which consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt was a Chinese initiative and not arrived at by consulting other countries that were expected to be part of it or affected by it”. A perspective of the BBIN initiative and an assessment was presented by a speaker from India. Aspects of complementarity between this initiative and the OBOR were also discussed.

The third session on “China’s Increasing Footprints in Indo-Pacific” highlighted the widely-discussed activities of China in the region, which many find them suspicious. The recently-announced award in the arbitration case between Philippines and China and the policy of Philippines Rodrigo Duterte towards China was briefly explained by a strategy analyst from Manila. The fourth session concentrated on the “Global and Regional Dimension of Terrorism and Asymmetric Challenges: Towards a Cooperative Strategy”. The focus was on the rising phenomenon of terrorism and radicalisation in Europe and South/Southeast Asia. There was a consensus that this menace is a common problem for the global community and needs to be fought collectively cutting across political and ideological differences or interests. The session ended with a succinct presentation on the ‘IOR and the Maritime Security Implications for Sri Lanka’.

This two-day conference wound up on positive note with various suggestions and recommendations. The participants agreed that the regularity of such interactions between various think tanks should be maintained and also increased to include other stake holders in the region like the US, China and countries of Southeast Asia.

Event Date 
October 21, 2016
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