International affairs

State of the Nation 2021: Asian ambassadors stress importance of cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

Countries that share common values and strategic interests are working together to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific, the Japanese Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Shingo Yamagami told CEDA’s State of the Nation conference.

In response to a question on dealing with complex regional issues and his approach to China, Ambassador Yamagami told a panel discussion on Australia and Asia that Japan “would like to see the rule of law prevail in this region”.

“Whenever we have disputes we don’t resort to unilateral arbitrary measures. We should do our best to solve these disputes in accordance with international laws and norms,” he said.

“By joining voices together we would like to include as many countries as possible in the network of laws and norms.

“Of course we have to be careful not to escalate tensions on our part, but when push comes to shove you will know who is your real friend – this is the kind of moment that Australia needs real friends and Japan is hereby standing with Australia.”

Ambassador Yamagami was joined on the panel by the High Commissioner of India to Australia, His Excellency Manpreet Vohra, who also voiced concerns about the “disquiet” caused by recent events in the region.

“In a sense much of Asia until a few short years ago was living in a world where the rise of one particular country, the economic rise particularly, was being managed and accepted quite well,” he said.

“It is only in recent years where certain actions and behaviours have led to a certain disquiet.

“We in India have also faced some inexplicable aggressive actions, particularly last year at our borders, at a time when otherwise things were going well.

To suddenly face inexplicably aggression or attempted coercion has led to a lot of disquiet.”

“I think it is quite natural in this scenario for likeminded countries of this region…to come together and offer an alternative model to the region.”

The panel discussion also included Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Y Kristiarto S Legowo, who noted that the global pandemic should be an occasion to “enhance cooperation” between major powers.

“This is a challenge we have to deal with together because no single country could address this challenge alone and no single country will be safe until every country is safe,” he said.

“This is the time to put aside our political differences and work together – hopefully the habit of collaboration will continue after this trying time.”