Amid efforts by China to increase its footprint in the Indian Ocean, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said that India should focus on Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative to foster its relations with its maritime neighbours.
“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a clarion call that India believes in SAGAR – Security and Growth for all. We have to continue to move in that mission. We should not allow this mission to go back in any way. We must make sure to tell our neighbours that we are here as friends, we are here to engage with you on equal terms, we consider all our neighbours as equals, partners in the development of this region,” Gen Rawat told the media on the sidelines of an event here.
He said that China uses money power to “gain popularity” in Indian Ocean Region countries and there is a threat of falling into a debt trap.
He said India should convince the maritime neighbours that it is their friend in the long term.
“We have to continue our foray into neighbouring countries. China has the habit of using money power and economics to gain popularity in those countries. So long as we are able to convince that in the long-term we will be your friends…in the short term, you will get a monetary advantage from China, but at what cost? We have seen some of the nations, what they have gone through. If you are going to fall into the same trap, the choice is yours,” Gen Rawat said.
He said India should try to convince countries that “we are there to partner with you on equal terms, we are not hegemons, we make sure that we share your values, understand your values”.
Gen Rawat also talked about the situation in Myanmar and said that Naypyitaw doesn’t want to drift towards China.
“Because of what’s happening in Myanmar our trade relations might get affected. There is a kind of civil war happening there. Otherwise, we have good relations with them. They trust us. Let me assure you, Myanmar doesn’t want to go towards China,” Rawat said.
He also laid stress on cultural and historical linkages with the neighbouring countries.
“We have rich cultural and historical linkages with these countries. I think that is what we need to exploit. The cultural linkages are there which have been developed through the years. They cannot be allowed to die down because of some action of one particular nation (China). That is our strength and we must exploit,” CDS Gen Rawat said.
He also talked about cyber security and said that it is a threat to the world.
“Cyber threat is a threat to anybody in the world. Today, you are seeing cyber disruptions as we are bringing in technology. As more and more technology comes in, you have to ensure that whatever technology you are imbibing, it must protect your system because adversaries will build capabilities to attack your systems. Cyber threat is a growing threat not just for the military, for every field,” said Gen Rawat.
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