COOPERATIVE PEACE AND SECURITY IN THE INDIAN OCEAN REGION
Address by Senator Ian Campbell to Open the Bilateral Seminar on `Cooperative Peace and Security in the Indian Ocean Region', Centre for Maritime Policy, University of Wollongong, 27 September 1996
Mr Downer has asked me to convey his regret that he is unable to open today's seminar in person. He has, however, done the next best thing by inviting a resident of the Indian Ocean Rim to deliver this speech on his behalf.
I would like to welcome you all, particularly those participants who have travelled far to be here today.
This seminar comes at an interesting time.
The Indian Ocean Region Initiative, generally known as IORI or the Mauritius process, has made considerable progress in a short time. In March next year Ministers of the participating countries will meet for the first time to launch formally the process - less than two years after the first officials'-level meeting.
Along with a number of other developments in the economic and political fields, this demonstrates a welcome optimism within the region.
But at the same time, anyone with access to a television set will be aware that there are also significant security uncertainties in many parts of the wider Indian Ocean region.
The balance is, I think, overwhelmingly positive. But, increasingly, the challenge is to see these issues - economic cooperation and collective peace and security - as linked.
This is part of the post-Cold War trend to recast traditional concepts of peace and security. New approaches to security combine a range of economic, strategic and political issues which have an impact on a community's well-being in the broadest sense.
In the Indian Ocean region, consideration of this comprehensive approach to peace and security is in its infancy and must be approached thoughtfully. But there is a new regional environment that encourages us to begin an exchange of views on precisely these issues. I think that the time is right for such an exchange.
Overview of the Regional Environment
Over the past decade or so, particularly since the end of the Cold War, there has been strong growth in regionalism in international relations.
It should not be surprising that the Indian Ocean region is now joining this trend. There are a number of factors that have encouraged this development. First, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the dynamic emergence of that country onto the world stage.
Second, the move towards economic liberalisation in the region, especially in India where extensive reforms and an outward-looking orientation have set the scene for continued growth at over six per cent per annum.
The third factor - and the one which most directly involves Australia - is the compelling example provided by the economies of the Asia Pacific region. In this part of the world we have made rapid progress in the areas of economic, political and security cooperation. The outstanding examples are APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
But notwithstanding this positive climate for cooperation, establishing mechanisms and networks to promote cooperative peace and security in the Indian Ocean region will not be easy - and it may not happen quickly. I say this not out of any personal reservations, but because it is better from the outset to guard against over-enthusiasm, which can lead to mistakes and disappointment.
There are those who are genuinely sceptical about the prospects for Indian Ocean cooperation in general, and security cooperation in particular.
I am not among them, although it is true that the region has had to bear more than its share of political turmoil.
In the 1970s, the region's northern rim was known as the `arc of crisis'. Since then, by some reckoning, at least half of the world's significant armed conflicts have been fought in or between the littoral and hinterland states of the Indian Ocean.
As recently as this month we have again seen military action against Iraq - action which Australia both understood and supported. Although the Indian Ocean region remains undefined in a geopolitical sense, and Iraq may fall outside of it, instability in the Gulf will remain a source of concern to a great number of nations within the region - as well as many outside.
The Indian Ocean region is a region of vast political, cultural and economic diversity, which has historically been united by the movement of peoples between Asia, Africa and Australasia, by processes of cultural interchange, and by ancient economic linkages. In addition, it is the only major section of the globe where all of the world's great religions are represented.
But in modern times the region has been marked by great disparities in economic development and is the location of some of the world's most intractable conflicts and political disputes.
In the public mind - as reflected by CNN at least! - even the region's major assets, its enormous energy reserves and the great trading sea lanes linking Europe, the Gulf and Asia, are more usually thought of as areas of vulnerability or sources of potential conflict.
Despite this, there has been a history of cooperative security effort in the region that needs to be recognised and remembered - if only for the lessons that might be drawn on in the future.
Among the first was an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOZOP) proposal, introduced into the UN General Assembly by Sri Lanka in 1971. This was about the same time that Great Britain was finishing the withdrawal of its security assets `East of Suez'. In the same year Malaysia floated its proposal for a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN).
In 1972, the UN formed the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean. The main work of the Committee was to prepare for an Indian Ocean Conference which would negotiate an agreement to implement the IOZOP. Because of an inability on the part of Committee members to resolve their fundamental disagreements, the Conference was never held. Australia is one of four vice-chairs of the Committee, a position it has held since the Committee's inception. And it is now the only so-called western country that still participates.
IOZOP and ZOPFAN were aimed at reducing superpower rivalry in the region, but failed because Cold War tensions were too difficult for smaller countries, even operating collectively, to resolve. They also failed to recognise that many regional states, including Australia, welcomed the US naval presence in the Indian Ocean as a force for stability.
Regional security initiatives with narrower memberships included the South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO), the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Joint Exercises off Trincomalee (JET). The last two fell victim to the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war but, in any case, all three were dependent on the involvement of external powers.
There is a theme linking these well-intentioned, but doomed, enterprises - the preoccupation of regional security planners, on both sides of the cold war debate, with the presence of, or threat from, external powers. Times have indeed changed: the main job of these same planners in the post-Cold War period is no longer managing external threats and global conflicts, but intra-regional and even intra-state conflicts.
In the course of this seminar you may wish to discuss a range of issues that fall comfortably within the broad topic of comprehensive security. These may possibly include collective security mechanisms, including peacekeeping, preventive diplomacy or confidence-building measures (CBMs). They may include particular sub-regional issues, or perhaps bilateral maritime or other cooperation.
The concept of regional security cooperation in the Indian Ocean is new. Its development should therefore be managed with care. But the region is evolving a two-track approach which should encourage more open exchanges at an informal level in order to develop transparent processes that can, in time, encourage more formal discussions.
This seminar is a second-track type activity. Second-track mechanisms can be useful for generating new ideas and fresh perspectives. I would therefore urge you to forget the fact that many of you are on government payrolls. Try to set aside national positions and resist feeling committed to particular outcomes.
I am pleased that this seminar will focus mainly on `comprehensive security', particularly non-military threats to security. It is those areas where greatest progress can be made and where the need is growing most quickly.
Rapid growth in regional wealth and integration is conventionally seen as a facilitator for enhanced regional security. But it can equally be a catalyst for increased illegal immigration, smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering, the spread of AIDS and environmental degradation.
Maritime issues are increasingly important. Alongside positive developments such as maritime cooperation and joint development of resources, greater attention is now turning to issues such as piracy, the safety of sea lanes and the coordination of search and rescue operations.
The region is faced with a raft of broad security issues. Many of these are closely interlinked.
In Africa, for example, population movements, war and famine typically come in a package, and it is not always clear which is cause and which is effect.
In South Asia, particularly between India and Bangladesh, and in the Middle East, riparian disputes, exacerbated by population increases, have the capacity to aggravate political tensions.
More than 80 percent of the world's opium is produced in our region, mainly - but not exclusively - in Afghanistan and Burma. This is both a consequence of political disorder and a potential cause of it.
Political conflict can beget separatist movements, which in turn can beget terrorism, war, refugee flows, economic decline and further political conflict - including between states.
While the patterns I have just described are clear, the solutions are not. The Indian Ocean region is not rich in institutional frameworks to address such problems. For example, the organisation for Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Cooperation (IOMAC) was established in 1985 under the auspices of UNESCO to deal with maritime issues. It has had only mixed success - neither Australia nor India are members.
The Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) has been effective in dealing with a range of issues, but its purview is limited to the island states.
In some ways, the challenge for modern security policy-makers in the Indian Ocean region is the same as that for economic policy-makers. Governments still need to match the extra-regional linkages from the colonial and post-colonial period with new and effective cooperative mechanisms among states within the region itself.
You may wish to consider other options for comprehensive engagement in the region. This might include discussing possible new mechanisms, or maybe just ways to use existing institutions more effectively. The Commonwealth is an example of an organisation that has successfully adapted itself to particular tasks in the legal field.
Perhaps the most significant contribution that governments can make to the security of the region is to work together to generate wealth and to lift the economic and social indicators of our peoples.
In this regard, the emerging process of Indian Ocean regional cooperation is very exciting. This process is developing along two separate but complementary tracks.
The first track is the inter-governmental initiatives inspired by India and launched by Mauritius in March 1995. The second track is the non-governmental process which began at the International Forum on the Indian Ocean Initiative (IFIOR) in Perth in June 1995.
In his keynote address at IFIOR, Mr Vinod Grover, Secretary West at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said:
It is best to work together on something that unites us rather than on that which separates us. It is our firm belief that economic cooperation and the resultant growth and development of our Indian Ocean world will itself have a beneficent leavening influence on the political and security climate of the region.
Those of you who were at IFIOR will know that this was said by way of gentle rebuke to the then Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, for trying to inject security issues into an essentially economic forum.
Mr Grover had a point.
I am pleased to say that past tensions between India and Australia, associated with the Indian Ocean process, have now been put behind us.
An intergovernmental meeting has just taken place in Mauritius where senior officials from India, Australia and twelve other Indian Ocean Rim countries met to take the process of Indian Ocean cooperation further.
The meeting decided, subject to approval by governments, on a Charter for a new regional organisation to be known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). This Association will focus on trade liberalisation, facilitation and promotion for the good of its members. It will not be a trade bloc.
If the Government agrees that Australia should participate in the Association - the matter is shortly to go before the Cabinet for final decision - this will happen at a ministerial-level meeting tentatively scheduled to take place in Mauritius in March next year.
The long term future of the IORI is unknown at this stage, but we shouldn't forget that the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) grew out of the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference, which had a political/economic focus.
Bilateral and Sub-Regional Cooperation
Australian support for the Mauritius process is predicated on two very practical goals. The first is to help realise the substantial economic potential of the region for the benefit of all. The second is to supplement and enhance our bilateral relationships in the region - particularly that with India.
India's size and strategic situation, together with the impressive economic growth I touched on earlier, makes strengthening our relationship with India a particular priority for the Australian Government. This is evidenced by the Government's commitment to the Australia India - New Horizons initiative, which will be held in October-November this year.
The New Horizons program will feature a range of business, science, technology, education, cultural and sporting events designed to present a sophisticated image of Australia in India.
This initiative will be the largest ever Australian overseas promotion, demonstrating the importance the Government attaches to building our bilateral relations with India, particularly in trade and investment. The Prime Minister will travel to India to open the festival [only if already announced].
In keeping with this emphasis on strengthening bilateral relations with India and in recognition of India's growing strategic significance, the Government welcomed India's becoming a dialogue partner of ASEAN and strongly supported India's joining the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
In conclusion, let me say that Australian Government gives full weight to the economic and strategic significance of South Asia and to the importance of Indian Ocean cooperation. As I have described, this recognition is being supported by policy activity and the judicious expenditure of funds.
The Government welcomes the fact that, at the same time as Australia is looking West, India is looking East.
Our task is to build on old links while addressing new problems. Governments in the region are increasingly looking to seminars like this to develop innovative solutions.
I wish you, on behalf of Mr Downer and myself, the best of luck in your deliberations.