Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addresses the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) via video conference, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: With China listening, defence minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday called for freedom of navigation, overflights and unimpeded commerce in the South China Sea where the Chinese Navy is flexing its muscles.
Mr Singh called for an open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific based upon respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of nations while addressing the eighth ASEAN defence ministers meeting Plus. The ADMM Plus is an annual meeting of the defence ministers of 10 ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partner countries -- Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States. Brunei is the ADDM Plus forum’s chair this year. Mr Singh also stressed on "peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue".
"India calls for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific, based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and adherence to international rules and laws," said Mr Singh in a video conference.
He said maritime security challenges are an area of concern for India, adding that sea lanes of communication are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region. "In this regard, developments in the South China Sea have attracted attention in the region and beyond. India supports the freedom of navigation, overflights and unimpeded commerce in these international waterways," said the defence minister. He said that India hopes that the code of conduct negotiations will lead to outcomes that are in keeping with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and do not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions.
Mr Singh said India has strengthened its cooperative engagements in the Indo-Pacific based on converging visions and values for the promotion of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. "Premised on the centrality of Asean, India supports the utilisation of Asean-led mechanisms as important platforms for implementation of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific," said Mr Singh. He added that India’s engagement with the Southeast Asian region, of which ASEAN is a primary component, is based on its "Act East Policy" announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2014. "Key elements of this policy are to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through continuous engagement at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels," he added.