ASIAN: India and ASEAN decide to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea


India and ASEAN on Thursday decided to step up cooperation to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea region (the world’s critical trade route) amid China’s ongoing aggression, by more to increase cooperation to fight terrorism in the context of the rise of extremism in the world.

Discussions at the 18th India-ASEAN Summit (held virtually), attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and nine Southeast Asian leaders, focused on regional and international issues of common interest and concern, including including the South China Sea and terrorism, officials said after the summit held under Brunei’s presidency.

Both sides stressed the importance of promoting a rules-based order in the region, including upholding international law, especially UNCLOS, officials said, adding that leaders affirmed the importance of maintaining and upholding promote peace, stability, safety and security in the South. China Sea, and ensure freedom of navigation and overflight.

Later, in response to a question from ET, MEA (East) Secretary Riva Ganguly Das said, “The leaders exchanged views on regional and international issues, including the Indo-Pacific, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula and terrorism, including the situation in Afghanistan. , saying that the current situation in Afghanistan has highlighted the problem of terrorism in the region. The Prime Minister called for a global policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. India is for a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. During the summit, the Prime Minister reaffirmed India’s support for freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the Indo-Pacific in accordance with international laws ”,

This is important amid China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea region and subsequent steps by its military to validate the claims, leading to tensions. A Chinese law, introduced in September on its claims in the South China Sea, further complicated matters.

Among other issues, leaders at Thursday’s summit highlighted the 30th anniversary milestone of the India-ASEAN partnership and announced 2022 as the year of India-ASEAN friendship.

The Indian Prime Minister underlined the central role of ASEAN in India’s Act East policy and India’s Vision for a wider Indo-Pacific vision. Building on the synergies between the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook (AOIP) and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), the Prime Minister and ASEAN leaders welcomed the adoption of the India-ASEAN Joint Declaration on Cooperation for Peace, Stability and Prosperity. In the region.

“Reaffirming the objectives and principles of AOIP which guide ASEAN’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions to promote an Indo-Pacific region that embraces ASEAN Centrality, openness, transparency, inclusiveness, a rules-based framework, good governance, respect for sovereignty, non-intervention, complementarity with existing cooperation frameworks, equality, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual benefit and respect for international law, including the Charter United Nations, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant United Nations treaties and conventions, the ASEAN Charter and relevant ASEAN treaties and agreements, while encouraging external partners to work with ASEAN to undertake practical cooperation in the four key areas identified in the AOIP, ”according to the joint statement.

On Covid-19, the Prime Minister highlighted India’s efforts to tackle the pandemic in the region and reiterated his support for ASEAN initiatives in this regard. India has provided medical supplies worth $ 200,000 to the ASEAN Humanitarian Initiative for Myanmar and $ 1 million to the ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund.

The leaders exchanged views on improving India-ASEAN connectivity in the broadest sense, including physical, digital and person-to-person, officials said. To strengthen India-ASEAN cultural connectivity, the Prime Minister announced India’s support for the establishment of the ASEAN Cultural Heritage List.

On trade and investment, he highlighted the importance of diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid economic recovery and, in this regard, the need to reorganize the India-ASEAN FTA, informed officials.

ASEAN leaders appreciated India’s role as a trusted partner in the region, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic with its vaccine supply. They welcomed India’s support for ASEAN’s centrality in the Indo-Pacific and looked forward to greater India-ASEAN cooperation in the region through the joint statement.

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