India on Thursday said a stable maritime environment, including the right of passage and unimpeded commerce in the South China Sea (SCS) in accordance with international law, is essential to realise the collective regional aspirations of Asian countries.
Welcoming the commitment made by the concerned nations to resolve the SCS issue with a consensus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "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," he said.
Addressing the East Asia Summit at Brunei's capital city, Bandar Seri Begawan, Singh said: "We welcome the collective commitment by the concerned countries to abide by and implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to work towards the adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.
"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 said cooperative mechanisms in disaster management would not only fulfil a humanitarian need, but also foster broader confidence and cooperation in the region.
"India has initiated the process of establishing a Virtual Knowledge Centre as well as a network of round-the-clock Points of Contact among EAS countries. We hope to strengthen these initiatives further with your support.
"We should also strengthen efforts to counter threats of piracy, international terrorism, transnational crimes and drug trafficking," the Prime Minister added.
The issue of South China sea dispute has been raised by a number of leaders at the ASEAN and East Asia Summits here, 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.
Speaking at the EAS, Singh further said that Asia has been a late starter in terms of building regional architectures of cooperation.
ASEAN and its partner countries need to "adhere to the principles of unity, cooperation and integration" for its future successes, Singh said, while re-affirming India's commitment to contribute to this process.