25 US-INDIA GLOBAL REVIEW JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 S ometimes what politi- cians don’t say is as important as what they do say. So it was with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s keenly anticipat- ed keynote at the Shangri-La Dialogue this year. The speech could have been fiery, as Modi’s rhetoric often is in front of a domestic audience. But as has become his style in inter- national settings, it was discursive and emollient. Modi’s address was intended to reassure, and hinted only oblique- ly at some of the challenges con- fronting India and the region. And although he framed his keynote in terms of the Indo-Pacific, its mes- sage was aimed for the most part at Southeast Asia. He barely mentioned the region’s major powers and other significant players on the periph- ery, such as Australia or Japan. He stopped well short of criticising China or any other state by name. The “Quad” was not spoken of at all. Instead, Modi used the speech to make the pitch that India stands willing and able to defend the “rules-based order”. He empha- sised that those rules and norms have a purpose. Above all, they uphold the sovereignty and auton- omy of all in the region, especially the small and middling states that comprise Southeast Asia. States such as Singapore, Modi argued: prosper as sovereign countries ... free and fearless in their choic- es ... when the oceans are open, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers the keynote address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 1. Photo: Reuters Modi plays by the “rules” at Shangri-La INDO-PACIFIC By Ian Hall