Jakarta | Against the backdrop of China's increasing military assertiveness in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pitched for everyone's commitment and joint efforts to strengthen the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
In an address at the East Asia Summit, Modi also said that India believes that the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea should be effective and compliant with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
His comments came days after a number of ASEAN member countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines reacted sharply to Beijing's territorial claim over the South China Sea in its latest edition of the "standard map of China".
On August 28, Beijing released the 2023 edition of the "standard map of China" which includes Taiwan, the South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as Chinese territories. India has dismissed the 'map' and lodged a strong protest with China over it.
The prime minister said all countries in the region have an interest in peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
"The need of the hour is an Indo-Pacific where international law including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) applies equally to all countries; where there is freedom of navigation and overflight; and where there is unimpeded lawful commerce for the benefit of all," Modi said.
"India believes that the Code of Conduct should be effective for the South China Sea; be UNCLOS compliant; and in this, the interests of those countries which are not part of the discussions should also be kept in mind," he said.
The East Asia Summit is the premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with issues relating to security and defence. Since its inception in 2005, it has played a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical and economic evolution of East Asia.
Apart from the ASEAN member states, the East Asia Summit includes India, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Russia.
"The current global scenario is surrounded by difficult circumstances and uncertainties. Terrorism, extremism, and geo-political conflicts are big challenges for all of us," Modi said.
"To face these, multilateralism and rules-based international order are important. It is necessary to completely follow international laws. And everyone's commitment and joint efforts are also necessary to strengthen the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries," he said.
"As I have said before – today's era is not of war. Dialogue and diplomacy is the only way to the solution," Modi noted