August 21, 2018
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India's Prime Minister rebukes China whilst holding out 'olive branch'  Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, used a strong opening address at the Asia Security Summit to “hold out an olive branch” to China in a bid to reduce tension in the region. In a powerful speech Mr Modi said development should be driven by the “consent of all, not the power of a few” and called for “dialogue not force” to settle disputes. All nations must be treated equally, “irrespective of size and strength,” he said. However, his thinly-veiled attacks on China are being interpreted as no stronger than necessary and a clear signal of mutual respect to India’s regional competitor. Addressing delegates in Singapore at the summit, also known as the Shangri-la Dialogue, on Friday, Mr Modi said: “The world has a better future when India and China work together and are sensitive to each other's interests”. In a swipe at China’s determination to establish itself as the regional hegemon he urged: “Each nation must ask itself ‘are we building a new world or forcing divisions?’”. Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South Asia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said Mr Modi’s emphasis on the “rules based international order” was a clear call “for others to follow”. Mr Modi at the opening address of the Asia Security Summit.  Credit: EDGAR SU/REUTERS Since his election four years ago, Mr Modi has sought to nurture political and security relationships. He called India a bridge between south and south-east Asia and described “fresh energy” in relations with Australia and New Zealand. He pointed to relations with Japan as the cornerstone of India’s south-east Asia policy and said his country’s relationship with Russia had matured, to be “special and privileged”. He firmly pointed out that his country had “overcome the hesitation of history” with the United States, a reference to the strained relationship during the Cold War when India was close to the Soviet Union whilst officially non-aligned. The two countries had a shared vision of an “open, stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region”. Mr Modi met US President Donald Trump last year in a meeting hailed a success.  Profile | Narendra Modi Whilst hinting at rivalries in the region he sought to assuage Chinese fears. “Differences must not become disputes,” he said and stressed “friendships are not alliances of containment”. He promoted collaboration with middle-ranking powers and was a strong advocate for the Association of South East Asian Nations, the 10-member regional security body, which he described as “an example and inspiration”. Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said Mr Modi’s speech continued the work of the informal summit in April in Wuhan, China, when he met China’s President Xi Jinping. The “coded criticism and the olive branch” approach was “in keeping with [Mr Modi’s] cautious style,” he said. There were “obvious rebukes” to China, but overall the speech sought to “wind down the tension” between the two countries. The summit, organised by the IISS, is taking place this weekend. 575 delegates from 40 countries are attending and Gavin Williamson, the British Defence Secretary, will be speaking on Sunday.  

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