WASHINGTON: India sees itself as a net provider of security in the strategic Indian Ocean region where it helps build economic capabilities and improve maritime security for its friends and partners, India's top diplomat in the US has said, ahead of the next week's first in-person Quad summit to be hosted by US President Joe Biden.
In an address to an event of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for launching the Indian Ocean Initiative here, India's Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu said on Tuesday that the Indian Ocean is a bridge with nations in immediate, and extended neighbourhood.
His remarks came days ahead of the first in-person Quad summit on September 24 in Washington which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga.
The four leaders would discuss promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, addressing the climate crisis and deepening their ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas like combatting COVID-19, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.
"The challenges that we face today, as nations, are far too complex, to be tackled single-handedly. This mutual interdependence, to me, is not a sign of weakness; but a source of strength. It is the friendship that we cherish; the trust that we build; the connectivity that we craft that holds potential solutions to many of the pressing problems that confront today's world," Sandhu said.
"The seas that separate us, are also the seas that connect us. India sees itself as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean Region. We also have been the First Responder in HA/DR operations in the Region. Whether it is floods in Sri Lanka or water scarcity in the Maldives, we have responded, with scale and speed, and that too within hours of the crises," he said.
Carnegie's launch is coming at a time when the term "Indo-Pacific" is, perhaps, increasingly becoming one of the most frequently used terms in the global strategic lexicon, the ambassador said.
"Our relationships with countries in the Indian Ocean are strong; and we are also helping build economic capabilities; and improve maritime security, for our friends and partners. During COVID-19, we sent medical teams and supplied equipment to the Indian Ocean island nations of the Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, among other countries in the Indian Ocean region," he said.
Sandhu said that India's vision of the Indo-Pacific was articulated in Prime Minister's keynote address to the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018.
"We view the Indo-Pacific, as a free, open, inclusive region, which embraces all, in the common pursuit of progress and prosperity. The centrality of ASEAN is a key element of the Indo-Pacific. There is convergence on this, with our partners, whether it be under the QUAD; or the trilateral with France and Australia," he said.
The US has been pushing for a broader role by India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region.
China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it.
Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.