NEW DELHI – India has expressed support for a rules-based order in the seas as it called for stronger maritime cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
During the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit plenary session last Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said maritime cooperation has been an integral part of discourse between his country and the regional bloc.
“India shares ASEAN’s vision for a rules-based order for the oceans and seas. Respect for international law, notably UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), is critical for this. We remain committed to work with ASEAN to enhance practical cooperation and collaboration in our shared maritime domain,” Modi told ASEAN leaders last Thursday.
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He said humanitarian and disaster relief efforts, security cooperation and freedom of navigation would be the focus of maritime cooperation.
China claims about 90 percent of resource-rich South China Sea. It said its expansive claim is based on “historical rights,” a concept rejected by the Philippines and other countries, which insisted that maritime claims should be in line with international law.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims with China.
In 2016, an arbitral court based in The Hague ruled that China’s historic claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis but the Chinese government refused to recognize the ruling, which stemmed from the complaint filed by the Philippines in 2013 during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III.
India is also involved in a territorial dispute with China over an area in the Himalayas, a row that caused a tense standoff last year.
In the same session, Modi proposed a dialogue on digital financial inclusion and investment promotion and infrastructure.
“Our $70-billion trade has grown 25 times over 25 years. Investments from ASEAN and India are robust and growing,” the Indian leader said. “We will continue to work with ASEAN to further enhance our trade ties and facilitate interaction among our business community.”