India will not balk at using force for defence: Rajnath

Rajnath Singh delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the Seoul Defense Dialogue 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. AP/PTI

India would not balk at using its strength to defend itself, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserted on Thursday even as he called for strong global against those supporting, financing and providing sanctuaries to terror groups.

His comments at a defence dialogue in Seoul came in the midst of spiralling tension between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.

"India has never been an aggressor in its history nor will it ever be. But that does not mean that India would balk at using its strength to defend itself," Singh said, in presence of South Korea's top military brass.

Last month, Singh indicated that India has the option of changing its decades-old policy of 'No First Use' of nuclear weapons depending on the circumstances.

The defence minister arrived in Seoul on Wednesday on a three-day visit.

Identifying terrorism as the "gravest" security challenge facing the region, Singh said concerted global efforts are required to deal with the menace.

"Our region is confronted with numerous traditional and non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, conflicts, transnational crimes, maritime threats, proliferation as well as the challenges of sustainable development," he delivering a keynote address at the 'Seoul Defence Dialogue'.

"Of the numerous security challenges that we face, the gravest is that of terrorism," he added.

Singh said strong measures are required against those who support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuaries to terrorists.

India has been attempting to rally international support in forcing Pakistan to take action against terror networks operating from its soil.

"No country in the world is safe from terrorism and India has been actively pursuing counter terrorism cooperation bilaterally, regionally and globally through UN and other fora," Singh said.

In his address, Singh also spoke about the need for common rules-based order in the resource-rich Indo-Pacific region.

He said the "order" must be based on sovereignty and territorial integrity and equality of all nations, irrespective of size and strength, adding India is for an open and inclusive architecture for the region.

China has been expanding its military presence in the Indo-Pacific , triggering concerns in various countries of the region. The US has been pushing for a bigger role for India in the Indo-Pacific which is seen by many countries as an effort to contain China's growing clout in the region.

In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" Coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

"Our quest for common prosperity and security requires us to evolve a common rules-based order for our region, the Indo-Pacific region," he said.

"We must provide to all nations the right of equal access to the use of common spaces on sea and in the air," he said.

Singh said India is for an open and inclusive architecture for the Indo-Pacific region, with ASEAN centrality and equal access to the global commons.

"If we work together on the basis of the five principles that have characterised Indian thought and policies for centuries – the principles of Samman (respect), Samvad (dialogue), Sahayog (cooperation), Shanti (peace) and Samriddhi (prosperity), our success is assured," he said.

Singh observed that world politics today is in a state of flux and this has aggravated global and regional challenges to international peace and security.

He expressed India's support for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and its denuclearisation through dialogue and diplomacy.

Talking about India's 'neighbourhood first policy', he said New Delhi is engaged with its neighbours in sub-regional groupings of IORA (Indian-Ocean Rim Association) and BIMSTEC apart from a trilateral maritime cooperation format with Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The IORA is a grouping of countries around the Indian Ocean while Bay BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is a bloc of seven nations of South Asia and South East Asia.

In the address, Singh termed as "spectacular" the progress made by South Korea over the past few decades, saying that it has been a source of inspiration for India.

He added that the synergy between India's 'Act East Policy' and Korea's 'New Southern Policy' has further strengthened the special strategic partnership between the two countries.

He also spoke about ancient cultural links between India and South Korea.

"Our people are linked through family ties that can be traced to the legendary Queen Heo Hwang-ok, who travelled all the way from Ayodhya to marry King Suro of Gaya in present day Gimhae. These linkages form a strong underpinning for our contemporary ties," he said.

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