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Posted on Feb 15, 04:48PM | IANS
New Delhi, Feb 15 : India has always supported the democratic aspirations of people in West Asia but doesn't support externally enforced changes, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said Friday.
Addressing the 15th Asian Security Conference on trends in West Asia, Menon said India had also called for restraint in use of coercive measures against the people of West Asia.
"But we are clear that societies cannot be reordered from the outside through military force. As recent experience shows, external interventions have uncertain and unstable outcomes," he said.
"We only have to look at the instability radiating out of Libya into the Sahel region and the prolonged conflict in Syria, with spillover effects in Mali and the wider region."
Menon stressed that India's interest was in a "peaceful and balanced strategic environment in West Asia which is such an important part of our extended periphery.
"It is in the quest for regional peace and security that India has sought to contribute to West Asian security within the limits of her capacities."
India has encouraged solutions to the region's conflicts and differences through dialogue.
"On the Arab-Israeli conflict, India's support for peace has been principled and consistent," he said. "India was the first non-Arab country to recognize the state of Palestine."
Menon said India opposed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the region.
"For instance, we have recognized Iran's right to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy while urging that the international community be convinced that she is fulfilling her international commitments, and arguing that the only effective way to do so is through dialogue and by using the IAEA's (International Atomic Energy Agency) expertise."
India has also contributed to anti-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa and developed maritime cooperation with Gulf countries to protect the sea-lanes vital to trade and energy flows.
Menon said India had worked to promote military cooperation with the countries of the region, bilaterally and through cooperation among Indian Ocean rim countries.
"We have built effective partnerships within the region to combat terrorism and extremism, working with our partners against terrorist groups which are increasingly interlinked across South and West Asia."
India has also sought to build energy security through long-term arrangements and mutual investments in the area.
The turbulence in the West Asia region posed short-term challenges but opened up long-term opportunities in terms of security, Menon pointed out.
The challenges include "the space that domestic changes in several countries have opened up for extremist groups to pursue their agendas, the possible regional instability and the sectarian divide that seems to be opening up, and the disruptions and dislocations that accompany processes of fundamental change in the way these societies and nations are run.
"Frankly, we had all got comfortable dealing with West Asia in ways set by habit. That is no longer possible...
"We are in a time when scholarship and increased engagement with the region is needed more than ever before," he said.