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Rede von Staatsminister Annen beim Empfang von Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale anlässlich des Raisina-Dialogs 2020

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Thank you, Foreign Secretary Gokhale, for inviting me to speak to you today and for your kind words of introduction.

As we usher in a new decade, the 2020s, one thing has become crystal clear once again: peace cannot be taken for granted.

The developments in the Middle East, in Ukraine and in Asia remind us of the power politics of the 19th century. Nationalism, isolationism and militarisation have somehow gained momentum. And the existing international order – the very order that, after the Second World War, has brought peace and prosperity at a level not seen before in the history of humankind – is under attack.

Unfortunately, we seem to be torn asunder just when the need for international cooperation in a connected world appears especially urgent – be it on peace, the environment, in mastering the digital sphere or global finances, or in safeguarding international trade as a source of prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we seek to defend the basic pillars of the liberal order, we have to accept one simple truth: our common task will be to find balancing elements and make sure that everyone – even the most assertive global powers – continues to operate in a rules-based multipolar system.

I believe that Europe and the Indo-Pacific region can play their part. Geographically speaking, we seem far away from each other. However, when it comes to social, political or economic developments, in our interconnected reality, this geographic distance is no longer as relevant as it was in the past.

Although we’re not part of this region, Germany and Europe as a whole have strong stakes in it: as a continent, Asia is the EU’s largest trading partner. The Indian and Pacific Ocean are traversed by the world’s most important shipping routes, including essential bottlenecks such as the Straits of Hormuz and Malacca. Any threat to these vital lifelines, any conflict in the region, will have a direct impact on the functioning of our economies and therefore on Europe’s prosperity and security.

Given this significance of the Indo-Pacific as a main route for commerce and energy flows between continents,

  • it is in Europe’s interest to ensure that maritime routes and lines of communication work uninterrupted,
  • it is in Europe’s interest to ensure that economic competition is framed by a rules-based order – the functioning of the WTO is vital here,
  • and it is in Europe’s interest to ensure that militarisation does not escalate into conflict.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The decline of US centrality as a provider of security for Asia and the stunning economic success of many Asian countries have favoured China’s increasingly assertive foreign and security policy, especially in its own neighbourhood.

Rising uncertainty and threat perceptions have made the region less stable, as indicated by military expenditure. Such risks to international security and global trade are compounded by transnational issues such as violent extremism and terrorism as well as the impact of climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This situation requires a two-track approach from Germany and Europe. On the one hand, we need to do what we can to help the Indo-Pacific region find a new balance and prevent a power monopoly.

How do we do that?

By working with like-minded partners such as India, further diversifying our partnerships in the region, investing in connectivity and helping to build resilient capacities in smaller countries.

On the other hand, we need to promote multilateral approaches in the region and worldwide.

How do we do that?

Again, by working with like-minded international partners, reinstating passion for and believing in multilateralism and inviting everybody to join us. This is why Germany and France, supported by India, established the Alliance for Multilateralism – an informal and flexible format with which we want to advance pragmatic yet principled multilateral cooperation – to find solutions on issues ranging from international humanitarian law to disarmament to new technologies, to name but a few examples.

Ladies and gentlemen, 
I believe Europe and the Indo-Pacific also share one major concern, namely the fear of being affected by and caught up in great power antagonisms.

Unilateral hegemony in the Indo-Pacific or a bipolar international order neither lies in our interest nor in that of the region because it would curtail the region’s potential and the autonomy of local actors. And it should be clear that watching from the sidelines is not enough.

Ladies and gentlemen,

My message to you today is this:

Germany is a stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific.

We are partners and friends – that’s why I am here.

But we have not yet exhausted our full potential.

I see three areas of convergence that are crucial for European engagement in the region:

  1. Infrastructure and technology
  2. Security
  3. Strengthening regional multilateral forums

FIRST, infrastructure and technology:

Investments in infrastructure and technology in the region are essential. That is why the EU has adopted a Connectivity Strategy for Asia, focusing on transparency, fiscal and environmental sustainability and a level playing field. This Connectivity Strategy addresses cross-border cooperation in the areas of transport, energy, technology and economic integration, thus increasing available options and facilitating diversification.

That is why Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Modi, at their most recent intergovernmental consultations, gave the green light for cooperation in the field of artificial intelligence, and why Germany is working with India on green urban mobility in a programme totalling one billion euros. Ultimately, leadership on frontier technologies and economic growth will be the decisive factors in determining a new balance of power.

In return, we expect our partners in Asia to make their economies fit for international trade and investment, to strengthen liberal democracy as a superior model of governance in comparison to illiberal and autocratic systems, and to shoulder shared responsibilities on the world stage.

SECOND, security:

There will be no sustainable balance of power without hard security. This is a field in which Europe must make greater efforts to understand the strategic needs of the region and, in return, in which the region must work harder to understand the potential and limits of what the EU and its Member States can realistically contribute.

European countries already bear a substantial part of the burden with respect to supporting Afghanistan, for instance, where the situation is still far from good, but where at least the threat to the region and the world has been kept in check since 2001.

Afghanistan, isn’t the only example of Germany’s and Europe’s engagement in the region, of course. The EU’s Operation Atalanta is tackling piracy around the Horn of Africa. Germany is part of the Global Coalition against Daesh and plays a vital role in stabilising Iraq. Together with its European partners, Germany is trying to save the JCPoA – balancing pressure on Iran with continued dialogue. Germany is involved in efforts to restart the peace process in Yemen. Following a broad geographic and comprehensive conceptual approach, Germany has helped to foster democratic structures in a number of Asian countries, including Pakistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Malaysia –  to only name but a few – for years.

Of course, there is always more that could be done, especially when it comes to capacity-building in the Indo-Pacific region.

As India, the largest country in South Asia, increases its interoperability with the armed forces of the United States, it will also become easier to coordinate with other NATO countries, such as Germany – be it for military exercises, for training and assistance to third parties, and potentially for joint operations.

THIRD, strengthening regional multilateralism:

The balance of power is only one aspect of Germany’s and Europe’s approach to the Indo-Pacific. Another necessary component is strengthening the multilateral regional architecture and its capacity to resolve regional conflicts in a peaceful way. Without this element, the evolving Indo-Pacific idea – whatever concrete form it may take – will fall short of its own vision.

Here, European experience comes to my mind. We had such multipolar orders in Europe prior to the First World War and – to a certain degree – also prior to the Second World War. Volatility, unpredictability, lack of transparency, mutual suspicion and arms races were the main features of these multipolar orders. In the end, this multipolarity led the various poles to devastating confrontations.

The lesson Europe drew from these experiences is that any multipolar scenario only works with a high level of inclusiveness and has to be combined with a binding set of rules and multilateral – or even transnational – institutions. Cooperative security arrangements including arms control and confidence-building, multilateral trade and investment agreements and a network of regional codes of conduct are needed in order to ensure a stable and transparent environment.

Despite the numerous multilateral organisations and informal formats in the Indo-Pacific, I think we’d all agree that an actual multilateral architecture in the region has not yet been achieved. That is why we’re supporting and sharing experiences with organisations in the region, and why the EU has launched a project on “Security cooperation in and with Asia”, starting this year.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Above all, we need to imbue multilateral cooperation with new life – especially in Asia. If we fail, international organisations could rapidly become marginalised and our international problem-solving capacity would be further diminished.

If we live up to this task, however, we have every reason to be hopeful about finding joint solutions to shared problems.



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