The annual USI National Security Seminar was held on 01-02 November 2018 at the United Service Institution of India (USI), New Delhi. The USI National Security Seminar has focussed on the Indo-Pacific Region since 2009 and this was the 10th edition of the Indo-Pacific series. The theme for this year’s seminar was “Evolving Geo-politics of the Indo-Pacific Region: Challenges and Prospects”. The seminar brought together varying perspectives on strategic challenges, and prospects for cooperation in the security and economic domains
The Welcome Address was delivered by Lt Gen PK Singh, PVSM, AVSM (retd), Director USI. It was followed by the Keynote Address by Gen Bipin Rawat, UYSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, Chief of the Army Staff. Special addresses were delivered by HE Ms. Harinder Sidhu, High Commissioner of Australia and VAdm Pradeep Chauhan, AVSM & Bar, VSM (retd), Director National maritime Foundation (NMF). The speakers included scholars and domain experts from India and 12 foreign countries.
The sessions were conducted on Security Challenges and Prospects, Economic Challenges and prospects, Framework for Cooperation and Furtherance of Economic and Security Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Apart from the speakers, each panel was chaired by two eminent experts – one Indian and one foreign.
The security challenges covered included the contestation in the Western Pacific, the developments in the Korean Peninsula, strategic competition around the Horn of Africa, conflicts in West Asia and Japan’s Free & Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. The economic prospects dwelled on harnessing blue economy for regional prosperity, China’s Maritime Silk Route, and the economic frameworks and connectivity initiatives in the region. In the session on framework for cooperation, the discussions included measures for building strategic trust, mitigation of traditional and non-traditional security challenges, and measures for building economic cooperation.
There were around 200 participants in the seminar. This included Ambassadors, diplomatic staff, serving and retired military officers, retired Foreign Service officials, and members of academia and think tanks. Each session saw enthusiastic participation by the participants with multiplicity of views across the audience and, in some cases, across the panel.
The general consensus was that despite the numerous security challenges in the region, it is extremely important to maintain dialogue between all stakeholders and pursue the prospects for cooperation. Cooperation could commence with areas such as Human Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Search and Rescue (SAR) and Blue economy, so as to nurture linkages across the region. These linkages could be used to build the stability architecture for the region. It is equally important to create mechanisms to ensure that untoward incidents do not spiral out of control. The USI National Security Seminar has proven to be a valuable platform for discussions to assimilate views on the contemporary security issues of the Indo-Pacific Region.