Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will attend the Shangri-La Dialogue 2016 slated to be held in June this year, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Parrikar’s main agenda for discussion is expected to be managing tensions in the South China Sea, controlling jihadi terror from Pakistan and to bolster confidence among India’s neighbours keeping in view Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Look East Act East” policy.
The Shangri-La Dialogue is an annual gathering of defence ministers, top military experts, policymakers ans academics, among others. It is organised by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies. The summit will be held in Singapore from 3-5 June this year.
“The Raksha Mantri will be attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and will address India’s concerns at the summit,” an MoD source told this newspaper.
A source in the MoD told this newspaper: “The special sessions will be of particular interest to us. The Raksha Mantri will address issues like managing tensions in the South China Sea and controlling jihadi terror from Pakistan. There are some jitters relating to increased Indo-US cooperation, particularly naval, in this region. So it’s important to calm the nerves in our neighbourhood. Engaging with countries, including China, is very important at this crucial juncture. The Prime Minister’s Look East Act East Policy is very important and forms the bedrock of our international policy in Asia. So it should be interesting to see what comes out of this summit.”
Experts believe that India’s visibility at the Shangri-La meet is very important for regional strategic cooperation and planning.
Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies, told this newspaper: “India should be visible in Shangri-La because it is an important talk shop. It brings together defence ministers of different countries, the entire Indo-Pacific as it were. Since India has already articulated the Look East Act East Policy, it’s important. Apart from trade, Look East Act East also has a strategic and security dimension involved.”
Bhaskar said that India, under the UPA, had become indifferent in terms of security dialogues such as Shangri-La. “India has been a bit indifferent. Under the A.B. Vajpayee government, we visited every year and it was a very good forum to exchange ideas. The UPA did not give it the same degree of importance. So they were a bit indifferent... It saves a lot of time and effort if you are able to meet several defence ministers over a period of three days. In that sense, it will be a valuable opportunity,” he said.