Colombo, October 9 (SAM): China told the Galle Naval Dialogue 2017 held here on Monday, that the best guarantor of maritime security is rapid economic development on a mutually agreed basis.
“I believe only through development can we eliminate maritime security threats,” said the Chinese delegate, Rear Admiral Cui Yuzhong, Deputy Commander of the PLA Navy East Sea Fleet.
“We hope to build an all-dimensional, multi-leveled and wide-ranging blue partnership to achieve mutual development through policy communication, facilities connection, smooth trade, financing, and shared morale,” Adm. Cui said, citing as an illustration the 21st.Century Maritime Silk Road and the allied economic development projects in the hinterland as an example of development ensuring well being and in the security too.
Propounding the theory that insecurity stems from unequal and distorted economic development stemming from a non-cooperative approach, the Chinese delegate said that the definition of maritime security has to be changed to found it on economic development.
What he meant was that the more widespread and equitable economic development is ,the greater the security in the regon.
“We advocate a new concept of maritime security. The core of this concept is common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” Adm.Cui said.
Giving details, he said that “Common Security” focuses on coordination to safeguard maritime security and sharing the well-being brought by maritime security. “Comprehensive Security” means adopting policies in a comprehensive way to solve traditional and non-traditional maritime security problems. “Cooperative Security” refers to mutual help to achieve mutual benefits and to reach a win-win situation. And “Sustainable Development” means that we balance security with development, deepen convergence of interests, and achieve benign interaction.”
The international community should adopt the concept of building a community based on a shared future for mankind in order to effectively promote coordinated action capability, tackle maritime threats and challenges and jointly handle the global oceans, the Admiral said.
“The global oceans should be governed by all related sides. The development of oceans should be shared by all nations. China’s 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road is put forward on the basis of this concept,” he said.
Answering the persistent criticism that China is elbowing its way into the oceans of the world disregarding existing norms, Adm. Cui said that China solves disputes through peaceful consultation.
“The Chinese government adheres consistently to solving maritime disputes through peaceful consultation, and the Chinese people are deeply convinced that only a peaceful maritime order can facilitate the global prosperity and development,” the Admiral said.
“The principle of peacefully solving the international disputes, determined by the United Nations Charter, is a lesson learned by mankind after painful experiences from the two World Wars. It has been proved by both history and reality, that consultation is an effective policy for ironing out differences, and that political negotiation is the fundamental approach for solving disputes,” he explained.
Grim Current Picture
Adm. Cui painted a grim picture of the current maritime security scenario in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Regional conflicts and international terrorist activities are rising one after another. Overall, mutual trust of the international community in the security field is not sufficient,” he said.
Given these conditions, “ disputes between some countries over maritime rights and interests cannot be solved for a long time,” he warned.
India Frets Over Sovereignty
Expressing India’s concerns regarding maritime security, Rear Admiral Karambir Singh, Vice Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy said that international cooperation for ensuring maritime security should not be at the cost of national sovereignty.
He was clearly alluding to the Big Powers (which in India’ view are the US and China) twisting the arms of smaller and weaker nations in a bid to ensure their own maritime security interests.
India feels that small countries like Sri Lanka are having to give in to the demands of Big Powers. For example, India believes that Sri Lanka is giving its vital strategic assets like harbors to China on a platter, and losing de jure control over them. This would not be good for Sri Lanka in the long run, India believes.
“Nations should strive for self-governance and self sufficiency and not go for quick fix solutions which could compromise their independence,” Adm.Singh said.
“Looking for quick fix solutions may lead to situations in which the strategic autonomy of a nation becomes dependent on external crutches. We should have a long term perspective so that the freedom to govern our destinies is retained within us,” he said.
The Indian Admiral called for a “genuine spirit of equality and respect for each other’s sovereignty,” in approaching international maritime security issues. India believes in “non-invasive” cooperation with other countries, which entails ensuring “local ownership.”
Adm. Singh proposed a multi-layered approach to maritime security for countries in the region. The first layer should be a national structure.This can be strengthened with bilateral structures of cooperation, which will the second layer. The third layer will be a regional structure, and the fourth and the final layer, will be an international structure of cooperation.
His stress on a national structure as the first and essential step is noteworthy given India’s feeling that smaller and weaker countries in the Indian Ocean region do not explore and exploit their own national potential first before seeking foreign cooperation and collaboration.
Interestingly, Adm. Singh referred to new “hybrid” forms of maritime security issues, and pointed out the emergence of new threat – that of terrorists using “mass migrations” to infiltrate other countries. He described this as “large scale migration or relocation of radical elements.”
He was perhaps alluding to the recent mass migration of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh and India, which has caused security concerns in India.
Like other speakers at the Dialogue Adm.Singh also laid stress on the need to evolve national and international legal systems to deal with maritime security issues. The question as to what should a navy do after an offender is apprehended at sea is not settled yet, he said.
Be In The US Bonnet
Highlighting America’s concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea, but without mentioning China, the US delegate, Adm.Scott W.Swift, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, said that there should be no scope for actions based on the dictum “might is right” in matters of maritime security.
Adm. Swift asserted that the US believes in cooperation and respect for the equality of all nations and not coercion ,suggesting that China has been acting unilaterally disregarding the interests or concerns of other stakeholders in the seas.
Adm. Swift called for “inclusive dialogues where the size and strength of the participating countries would not matter”.
(The image at the top shows Rear Adm.Cui Yuzhong speaking at the Galle Dial:ogue 2017)