Amid aggressive moves by China, Rajnath Singh seeks free, open Indo-Pacific

Updated on Nov 24, 2022 03:04 AM IST

India is keeping tabs on China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea and taking steps to ensure that the Chinese navy doesn’t muscle its way into the Indian Ocean where combat-ready Indian warships are carrying out round-the-clock surveillance for any unusual activity.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh during the ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (PTI)
Defence minister Rajnath Singh during the ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), in Siem Reap, Cambodia. (PTI)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday called for “a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific”, pivoting on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, while stressing on peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and under the framework of international laws at a time when China claims large portions of the disputed South China Sea, and its aggressive moves in the region threaten to escalate tensions.

“We are concerned about complicating actions and incidents that have eroded trust and confidence, and undermined peace and stability in the region,” Singh said while addressing the 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus at Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Speaking at a separate event in New Delhi, Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said the possibility of traditional inter-state conflict in the region could not be ruled out, and there was an increased risk to the rules-based order stemming from disputes of jurisdiction, undermining of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), piracy, illegal human migration, and drugs and arms trafficking. The navy chief was speaking at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue, organised by the Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation.

India is keeping tabs on China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea and taking steps to ensure that the Chinese navy doesn’t muscle its way into the Indian Ocean where combat-ready Indian warships are carrying out round-the-clock surveillance for any unusual activity.

“India stands for the freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, peaceful settlement of maritime disputes and adherence to international law, particularly, the UNCLOS. We hope that the ongoing negotiations on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea will be fully consistent with international law, in particular, UNCLOS, and should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions,” Singh said.

Last year, Admiral Phil Davidson, commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said aggressive Chinese naval actions and asymmetric activities undermine the rules-based order and constitute a major challenge. “The Indo-Pacific region is in competition between a closed and authoritarian Beijing vision, and the idea of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Davidson said.

The ADMM-plus comes on the back of the Malabar exercise conducted by India, US, Japan and Australia off the Japanese coast at a time China is pushing for greater influence in the far seas and its warships are increasingly foraying into the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

“With participation from 10 countries of the ASEAN and eight major ‘Plus’ countries, ADMM Plus can position itself not just as a forum for regional security but a driver for world peace. Together, we constitute half of the world’s population,” the minister said.

He added that the gravest threat requiring urgent and resolute intervention by international community was transnational and cross-border terrorism. “Indifference can no longer be a response, as terrorism has found victims globally.”

The growing realities of the contemporary world, both in geo-political and economic terms, underscore the need for a confluence of Indian and Pacific Oceans, Hari Kumar earlier said.

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