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Call for 'security through cooperation'

By P. S. Suryanarayana



The External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, before the opening ceremony of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue meet at Qingdao in east China's Shandong province on Tuesday. — AP

SINGAPORE, JUNE 22. India, China and Pakistan today joined several other Asian countries in endorsing a commitment to resolve disputes through dialogue.

"Asian nations should resolve their disputes or discords through dialogue, with a view to preserving peace and security through cooperation," they said in a declaration issued in the Chinese city of Qingdao at the end of a two-day regional conference.

The External Affairs Minister, K. Natwar Singh, and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing, besides the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, and the Japanese Foreign Minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, were among leaders from 22 countries who participated in the latest round of Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD).

The `Declaration on Asia Cooperation,' which they adopted, affirmed a collective commitment "to intensify political dialogue and enhance mutual trust." The strategic resonance of this formulation for countries such as India, Pakistan and China was quite conspicuous.

In his address to the conference, the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, said Beijing would never seek hegemony and that disputes with historical origins should be settled through dialogue.

The ACD group's endorsement of the principle of "security through cooperation" in the political and military domains was matched by its collective pledge to cooperate, on a "voluntary" basis, to usher in "energy security" in the region.

Issued as the `Qingdao Initiative', the document on energy security outlined various avenues for possible cooperation, including the exploration of "the potential for new energy reserves in Asia through consultation among interested parties." Exploitation of such reserves was also suggested.

Of particular interest to India and Pakistan was the ACD group's endorsement of voluntary cooperation, consistent with "national interests," in "the construction of oil and gas pipelines."

Significantly, in this context, Iran is not currently a member of the ACD forum.

A 'substantive engagement'

Mr. Natwar Singh held "substantive discussions" with his counterparts from several countries, including China and Pakistan, according to official sources.

The proposal of a common nuclear security doctrine, which could enhance trust among not only India and Pakistan but also China, "did not come up" during the "substantive" engagement, if only because the issue had been "clarified already." These talks brought into focus the growing acknowledgment that nuclear risk-reduction was indeed "a global issue."

Although the Iraq issue, in the unfolding context of the U.S.-led moves to "transfer sovereignty" in the wake of the latest U.N. Security Council resolution, did not come to the fore at this Asian conference, it was obvious to the participants that there had been no shift in India's stand on this issue, sources said.

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