Rajnath Singh favors free and open Indo Pacific at key ASEAN meeting

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday stated that India calls for a free, open, and inclusive order in the Indo Pacific, further adding that the Centre will be in supporting freedom of navigation, overflight, and unlimited commerce in the international waterways which also covers the South China Sea.

Amid the virtual address at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), Rajnath Singh affirmed that another concerning area for India is the challenges pertaining to maritime security challenges and it further expects that the outcomes for the Code of Conduct negotiations adhering to South China Sea will substantially follow the international law.

Singh said, “India calls for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific, based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and adherence to international rules and laws.”\

Singh added, “India has strengthened its cooperative engagements in the Indo-Pacific based on converging visions and values for promotion of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. Premised upon the centrality of ASEAN, India supports the utilisation of ASEAN-led mechanisms as important platforms for the implementation of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific.”

The minister said the sea lanes of communication play a key role to maintain peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region, thereby adding that the developments in the South China Sea have garnered more attention in the region and beyond.

He said, “India supports freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded commerce in these international waterways. India hopes that the Code of Conduct negotiations will lead to outcomes that are in keeping with international law, including the UNCLOS and do not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not a party to these discussions.”

China has claimed sovereignty over almost the complete South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

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