New Delhi: India Thursday called for all parties to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to respect global laws governing freedom of navigation and access to resources, synchronising its view with that of the US.
The world’s critical maritime hot spot has in the recent months witnessed flare ups between China and other nations over their territorial claims in the region.
“We have been following developments in respect to the South China Sea. As we had stated earlier, India supports freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all,” India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said during an intervention at the ASEAN Regional Forum ministerial meeting in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
“We have noted that the parties concerned are engaged in discussions to address the issue, and we hope that progress will be made with respect to implementation of Guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea,” Krishna said, referring to multilateral principles that the nations of the region had agreed upon a decade ago.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also attended the forum’s meet, urged the nations from South China Sea involved in territorial claims and counter-claims to “work collaboratively and diplomatically to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and without use of force”.
She also stressed at the meet that the US has no territorial claims in the region and will not “take sides” in the disputes there.
“But we do have an interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea,” she was quoted as saying.
India has been keen on oil exploration in the South China Sea and had taken interest in blocks belonging to Vietnam, but later withdrew from some of the projects. China had openly expressed its displeasure in India’s engagement in oil exploration in the region.
Indian warships that have ventured into South China Sea have been frequently confronted by Chinese warships.
Interestingly, a flotilla of four Indian warships had sailed to Chinese port of Shanghai through South China Sea in June were pleasantly surprised when they were provided an escort for a day by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy) warship while passing through these waters.
Krishna said the ASEAN Regional Forum was meeting when the Asia-Pacific “continues to witness growing economic interdependence, cooperation and increased linkages which contribute towards shared goals of peace, security and prosperity.
“However, we must work together to address various challenges that cause instability and insecurity,” he said.
Describing terrorism as “a grave threat”, Krishna said it needed to be addressed through a comprehensive global approach and strengthened commitment to combat it in all its forms anywhere.
He also called for early conclusion of the UN convention on international terrorism.
“In the present era of interdependence, the security and economic prosperity of nations is vitally linked to safety and security of sea lanes of communication. States should work together to address common threats to maritime security. The menace of piracy has been expanding its reach and it should be addressed firmly through cooperative action,” he added.