Iran’s Zarif Offers Plans to Strengthen Region against West

Iran’s Zarif Offers Plans to Strengthen Region against West

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Addressing a forum in New Delhi, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the West does not control or even influence all significant developments anymore, offering initiatives for regional stability and collective efforts for a strong region.

Foreign Minister Zarif delivered a speech to the Raisina Dialogue multilateral conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.

In his comments, the Iranian diplomat underlined that the important events do not take place in the West anymore.

Hailing Raisina as a forum that helps promote understanding and interaction at the levels of government, the private sector and civil society, Zarif proposed plans for a strong region rather than the dominance of strongmen in the region.

What follows is the full text of his speech:

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to participate in the 2019 Raisina Dialogue. Allow me to thank the people and government of India and the Observer Research Foundation for their hospitality and excellent arrangements and for providing this opportunity to engage in a “Dialogue” on “A World Reorder.”

I think these two pivotal concepts -Dialogue and World Reorder- are very apt for our contemporary situation and deserve serious attention.

First, Dialogue. Dialogue by definition requires a readiness to listen and to re-examine assumptions. As defined by the Global Agenda on Dialogue Among Civilizations adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly a few weeks after the September 11 tragedy in 2001, dialogue is “founded on inclusion, and a collective desire to learn, uncover and examine assumptions, unfold shared meaning and core values and integrate multiple perspectives.”

Indeed, a genuine dialogue requires “equal footing and mutual respect”, as well as “recognition of diversified sources of knowledge” and wisdom. It should aim at achieving “mutual enrichment” and “identification and promotion of common ground … in order to address common challenges”.

In this vein, dialogue becomes a new global paradigm as opposed to the prevailing paradigm of exclusion.  For centuries —even millennia— politicians defined relations within a zero-sum paradigm: that there had to be winners and losers in every given situation.

Many criteria were either found, or invented, to construct “the other side”, in other words, the side to be excluded. Diversity —be it geographical, political, civilizational, cultural, religious, patterns of military alliances and level of economic development— has been perceived as a threat and thus a justification for exclusion.

Enemies —based on real or perceived differences— serve not only to justify exclusion but in fact as a convenient managerial tool. The need for an enemy as a managerial tool has been so prevalent that at times enemies have been actually forged.

Demonization requires and breeds ignorance of “the Other”, and not only produces enemies, but creates a perpetual state of confrontation.

The realities of our globalized world have shattered the applicability of the zero-sum perspective. Our approach to challenges ranging from the environment, global economy, trade and transfer of knowledge and technology to eradication of extremism and terrorism, organized crime and weapons of mass destruction can bring about either "positive sum" or "negative sum" outcomes. If we approach these common challenges with a "zero sum mentality", we will all lose and end up with "negative sum" outcomes. In the era of globalization of information and emotions, there can be no island of stability, security, or prosperity.

So “Dialogue” in the theme of this conference represents a revolutionary departure, where our common humanity and common vulnerabilities become better tools for global governance than perceived or manufactured enemies. To sum up, “Dialogue brings with it equal footing….as it is a process by which we accept, as much as we want to be accepted. We include, as much as we want to be included. We listen, as much as we want to be listened to… dialogue can be a framework where the weakest is accorded the privilege to be listened to, and where the strongest finds it necessary to explain its case to others.”

Let me now turn to the second pivotal concept: “A World Reorder.” We live in a transitional phase where the convenience of a global order which channeled and organized our expectations is no more. It brings with it the danger of miscalculations which can make the difference between rise and conversely demise for countries and regions. This all highlights the fundamental challenge here: namely, correcting cognitive disorders.

Allow me to put forward a proposition. The emerging global order is “post-western”. This is not derogatory to the West, but simply a statement of reality that the West —as a geographic or political construct— does not possess a monopoly over all consequential global developments.

Today it is evident that unlike the early 20th century, all important events do not take place in the West. And unlike only a few decades ago, the West no longer controls or even influences all significant developments. I will spare you from the many examples of the latter, and rather posit that the practical implication of this shift for our volatile neighborhood in West, Central and South Asia is that we cannot expect the West to provide us with all the remedies —nor can we blame it for all our ills.

Distinguished friends,

Our region —however we choose to define it since regions are not rigid geographies but rather flexible constructs— is seen as the locus of many global problem, particularly extremism and terrorism. Be it West Asia, Central Asia or South Asia.

It is easy for us in this neighborhood to blame the West as the ultimate culprit in our problems. There is no shortage of historical facts here. At the same time, it has been even more convenient for the West to blame us –particularly Muslims– for problems arriving on its shores. Finger-pointing in both directions —and even within our region— is perhaps the easiest diversion.

But the situation is far too serious for a game of blame. While there is a lot of blame to go around, we need to break the habit of always throwing the ball in the other’s court.

As I elaborated in the opening of my thoughts here, it is high time for the countries in our region to abandon two illusions: that security can be bought or imported AND that security can be achieved at the expense of the insecurity of others. We need to stop rehashing our grievances and our narratives of past history and move in the direction of establishing a working and yet modest and realistic regional mechanism.

We cannot wish away our differences, nor can we neglect the anxieties born by divergences in size, or human and natural resources.

We can start with a “Regional Dialogue Forum”, particularly in the Persian Gulf region which has been the scene of so many wars in the last 4 decades; from Saddam Hussein’s aggression against Iran and later against Kuwait, to US operations and finally to the humanitarian nightmare in Yemen.

Admission to such a forum should be based on accepting generally recognized principles and shared objectives, notably, respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of all states; the inviolability of international boundaries; non-interference in internal affairs of others; the peaceful settlement of disputes; the impermissibility of threats or use of force, and the promotion of peace, stability, progress and prosperity in the region.

A forum such as this could help promote understanding and interaction at the levels of government, the private sector and civil society, and lead to agreement on a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence-building measures; combating terrorism, extremism and sectarianism; ensuring freedom of navigation and the free flow of oil and other resources; and the protection of the environment, which is an imminent existential challenge, particularly for our neighbors in the southern Persian Gulf region.

We need a strong region rather than the dominance of strongmen in the region. From our perspective a strong region is characterized by the following attributes:

1- Homegrown political and territorial stability;

2- Reliance on the populace as the source of legitimacy, security and prosperity;

3- Harmonization of national identities and regional citizenship;

4- Participation of all relevant regional countries in ensuring peace in the region through regional institutions, organizations or ad hoc arrangements;

5- More confidence, more trade and more interaction between and among the countries in the region, than with external powers;

6- Economic relations and people-centered interactions, making any resort to war costly and untenable;

7- A regional culture that will place national security on a par with regional security; and,

8- A sustainable regional environment.

We in Iran have been forced into the privileged position of relying solely on our own population as the source of our security and advancement, while welcoming the opportunity to progress through regional and global cooperation. We have also learned that we can only attain security in a secure region, where our neighbors also enjoy internal and external stability. Guided by commonsense, we recognize that the era of global and regional hegemony is long gone and that a stronger region is in our interest, in the interest of the entire region, as well as ultimately in the interest of the entire world.

Thus, we are prepared to engage our neighbors and all those interested in the stability of this pivotal —yet volatile— region based on mutual and collective compliance with the following principles and objectives:

1- Preservation of territorial integrity and the stability of the countries in the region through the strengthening of domestic governance and the prevention of external aggression;

2- Promotion of good governance throughout the region;

3- Exercise of strategic self-restraint by all regional actors;

4- Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, eradication weapons of mass destruction, and prevention of costly and destabilizing conventional arms race;

5- Promotion of regional balance and rejection of hegemony by regional or supra-regional powers;

6- Strengthening of regional economic prowess and governance;

7- Adherence to multilateralism; and

8- Connectivity and more efficient utilization of transit routes between north and south, and between east and west.

We share with India many commonalities in forging such a neighborhood in South, Central and West Asia. We also extend our hand of friendship to our neighbors in the Persian Gulf region again, in order to move in this direction.

Thank you for your attention.

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