India and Indonesia ask China to follow UNCLOS on South China Sea

Sachin Parashar| TNN | Dec 12, 2016 / Indiatimes

NEW DELHI: India and Indonesia officially brought up the issue of disputes in South China Sea Monday as they urged all parties to show utmost respect to UNCLOS which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.
This is significant in the light of China’s refusal to acknowledge the ruling by an international tribunal formed under UNCLOS which dismissed Beijing’s claimed historical rights over 90 per cent of South China Sea’s waters in response to a lawsuit filed by the Philippines.

“Regarding the South China Sea, the two sides stressed the importance of resolving disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law including the UNCLOS,” said the joint statement issued by the two countries after a meeting between PM Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi.

India has so far namechecked South China Sea in summit meetings only with the US, Japan and Vietnam. As reported by TOI, it proposed the same ahead of Modi’s summit meeting with his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong in October but Singapore did not agree to it.

Indonesia is not directly involved in South China Sea disputes but remains worried about the presence of Chinese fishing boats near the Natuna islands, which it claims as part of its exclusive economic zone, and also Chinese attempts in the past to include the island chain in its territorial maps.

In the joint statement, India and Indonesia also exhorted all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoid unilateral actions that raise tensions.

In what was Jokowi’s first visit to India after he took over as president in 2014, the two leaders focused on upgrading ties in the domain of maritime security and defence cooperation. Jokowi and Modi also issued a separate statement on maritime cooperation in which they underscored the significance of international law, including UNCLOS, in resolving maritime disputes.

“Both leaders recognized that India and Indonesia share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication. Both leaders recognized the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the UNCLOS,” said the statement on maritime cooperation.

Speaking after his meeting with Jokowi, Modi said Indonesia was one of India’s most valued partners in our Act East policy.

“We have shared economic and strategic interests. We have agreed to prioritise defence and security cooperation,” he said, as the 2 leaders agreed to upgrade cooperation in defence, security and counter-terrorism. Read more…

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