India has yet again backed freedom of navigation, over flight, and unimpeded commerce in the South China Sea (SCS) following Beijing’s increased military activities and disruption in international maritime trade reported by several countries in that region.
Addressing the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), Singh reiterated India’s commitment to the ASEAN under the ‘Act East’ policy and assured of continuous engagement at bilateral and multilateral levels.
Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe and US Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin were part of the virtual meeting, a platform for ASEAN and its eight Dialogue Partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
“Developments in the South China Sea have attracted attention in the region and beyond. India supports freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded commerce in these international waterways,” Singh said.
Singh’s comments come at a time when the world community has been concerned over the Chinese manoeuvres in the South China Sea (SCS) and the increased presence of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
About the present regional and international security environment, Singh said new challenges to international peace and security are emerging. “The multitude of challenges of today’s dynamic and interdependent world cannot be addressed with outdated systems that were designed to deal with trials of the past,” he said.
Singh underlined that 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.
The Defence Minister said maritime security challenges are another area of concern to India. The sea lanes of communication are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region.
“Developments in the South China Sea have attracted attention in the region and beyond. India supports freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded commerce in these international waterways. India hopes that the Code of Conduct negotiations will lead to outcomes that are in keeping with international law and do not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions,” Singh said.
The ADMM-Plus meeting also came a day after 28 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, the largest reported incursion to date.