Amid simmering tension over China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea, India has called for international laws and norms to be followed and for freedom of navigation in international waters and the right of overflight.
Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. (retd) V.K. Singh, addressing the Fifth East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, said: “India hopes that all parties to the disputes in the South China Sea will abide by the guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“We further support efforts for the early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.”
Gen. Singh said the oceans in the Asia-Pacific region were a critical enabler of “our prosperity and of our growing interdependence”.
He said that while incidents of piracy have gone up, developments in coastal and island states can also impact security on the seas.
In addition, sovereignty disputes have the potential for undermining maritime security and mutual confidence.
“In a world of inter-dependence and globalisation, there is no option but to follow international laws and norms.
“India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including the South China Sea, the right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“Territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means, as was done by India and Bangladesh recently using the mechanisms provided under UNCLOS,” he said.
Stating that everyone was concerned about the surging threat of terrorism, radicalism and extremism across the world, Gen. Singh said solutions have to be found through a sustained political approach to pre-empt and prevent radicalisation, recruitment, travel, training and financing aspects of terrorism.
“We appreciate Malaysia’s Global Movement of Moderates initiative and the emphasis on de-radicalisation by Indonesia, Singapore, Australia and other countries.
“We also need to develop acceptable norms of state behaviour in cyber space and address questions related to internet governance,” he said.
He also said India will study carefully a suggestion to make Nalanda University the hub for setting up a network of East Asia Summit universities.
He invited EAS participating countries to make active use of the Virtual Knowledge Portal launched in New Delhi in December 2014 for promoting multilateral cooperation in the event of disasters.