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Antony pleads for proactive role by India in West Asia

Posted on Feb 13, 04:41PM | IBNS

New Delhi, Feb 13 : In the backdrop of tumultuous changes sweeping the Middle East, Defence Minister A K Antony on Wednesday expressed concern about the safety and security of Indians working in the region.

Addressing the 15th Asian Security Conference organized by IDSA here, Antony said, "The strong urge for change is clearly visible across the region."

Dwelling at length on the changes taking place in the Middle East, Antony said, "The voice of youth is a universal message that is strongly echoing across to governments in all regions of the world."

The Defence Minister said, "The recent developments in all these countries give us lesson that no government, or regime, can afford to ignore the popular aspirations anymore."

Antony emphasised that social media has emerged as a potent and vibrant force.

The social media has served as a 'force multiplier' in the hands of the protesters, he said.

He said: "Such transition unfortunately has been accompanied by large-scale violence."

Expressing deep concern on the ongoing violence in Syria and supposedly the Al Qaeda taking over the government in Mali, he remarked: "India can ill afford to remain aloof from the transformative changes in its immediate and extended neighborhood."

He cautioned the audience that the "journey ahead will be long, tortuous and full of twists and turns".

"Since the developments in West Asia have the potential of changing the regional and geopolitical landscape and the region being critical for energy security, we have to be extremely tactful in safeguarding our interests while dealing with the problems of the region," he said.

Highlighting the importance of a stable and peaceful West Asia on the economic growth of our economy, Antony said, "In 2012 India received US 70 billion dollars in remittances from foreign countries and a majority of them came from the gulf region. These remittances support nearly 40-50 million families in India and at the same time contribute to local prosperity."

"Adding further that India's trade with the region is expanding and during 2011-12 our trade with Gulf Cooperation Council was more than 145 billion dollars, he said that recent developments have complicated the security situation in the region. During 2011 India evacuated nearly 19,000 Indians working in Libya.

"Given India's vital stake in peace and stability in the region, it is natural for India to have an interest in abiding peace and security in the region," he said.

At the outset, Director General, IDSA, Arvind Gupta gave the welcome address.

A galaxy of distinguished speakers and strategic experts from West Asia, North Africa, United States, U.K, Europe, Australia, Pakistan, Japan and China are attending this three- day conference.