India on Thursday said a stable maritime environment, including the right of passage and unimpeded commerce in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, is essential to realise the collective regional aspirations of Asian countries.
Addressing the East Asia Summit at Brunei’s capital city, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the commitment made by the concerned nations to resolve the South China Seas issue with a consensus.
“A stable maritime environment is essential to realise our collective regional aspirations. We should re-affirm the principles of maritime security, including the right of passage and unimpeded commerce, in accordance with international law, and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes,” Singh said.
The issue of South China Sea dispute has been raised by a number of leaders at the ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Brunei, with the US also calling for a collective consensus to resolve the issue, although China is said to be against any third-party intervention on the matter.
China claims the resource-rich South China Sea, overlapping with claims from Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam. The last four are members of ASEAN.
The EAS is a forum for cooperation among the ten ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) nations and its partner countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
The ten ASEAN nations comprise Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“We also welcome the establishment of the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum for developing maritime norms that would reinforce existing international law relating to maritime security,” he added.
Singh further pointed out that India has initiated the process of establishing a Virtual Knowledge Centre as well as a network of round-the-clock Points of Contact among east Asian countries.
“We should also strengthen efforts to counter threats of piracy, international terrorism, trans-national crimes and drug trafficking,” the Prime Minister added.
Earlier, Singh held discussions various economic issues and other areas of cooperation with his counterparts in Australia and Japan.
During his meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Singh is believed to have discussed a wide range of issues including sale of uranium to India, sources said.
With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also present, Singh is believed to have discussed various issues including economic cooperation.
Specific details of Singh’s meetings with the Japanese and Australian Prime Ministers could not be immediately ascertained.
However, official sources had earlier said that the issue of uranium sale was expected to come up for discussion during Singh’s meeting with Australia’s newly-elected Prime Minister, as the Abbott government has been positive about stronger ties between the two countries on this issue.
Singh arrived here on Wednesday for these meetings and was scheduled to leave later this evening for Indonesia on a bilateral visit.