India urged China on Tuesday not to reject a United Nations-backed tribunal’s ruling that Beijing had no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within much of the South China Sea, which has been subject to territorial disputes by several countries.
A statement issued by the external affairs ministry on the award contained no reference to China, but there were no prizes for guessing who it referred to.
“…As a State Party to the UNCLOS, (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans,” the statement said.
The words “utmost respect” stood out in the statement, which came four hours after the ministry issued the first missive, saying it was “carefully studying” the award.
China, which boycotted the hearings at the court in The Hague, dismissed the order as null and void, saying it neither accepts nor recognizes it.
Beijing’s stand was supported by its all-weather ally, Pakistan, even as the US said the arbitration court ruling should be treated as final and binding and not as a reason to raise tensions.
The hard-hitting judgment said China’s claims to historic rights under the “nine dash line” were contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. It added that China had no entitlement to an economic zone within 200 miles of Mischief Reef or Thomas Shoal.
India said it supported freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law as reflected notably in the UNCLOS.
One subtext is to highlight how China is not playing by international rules. It shows China’s double standard of insisting on sticking to the rules on India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) but ignoring its treaty obligations when it comes to the UN-backed tribunal’s orders.
“India believes that States should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability,” the statement said.
“Sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development,” India said.
Pakistan backs China
But Pakistan said Islamabad opposed any imposition of “unilateral will” on others.
Pakistan maintains that disputes over the South China Sea should be peacefully resolved through consultations and negotiations by states directly concerned, foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said.
The United States said it had an interest in seeing territorial and maritime disputes resolved without coercion.
“We have an enduring interest in seeing territorial and maritime disputes in the Asia Pacific, including in the South China Sea, resolved peacefully, without coercion and in a manner that is consistent with international law,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, President Barack Obama’s top Asia policy advisor.
US state department spokesperson John Kirby termed the court’s decision “an important contribution to the shared goal of a peaceful resolution to disputes in the South China Sea”.
(With agency inputs)