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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh extends support to freedom of navigation in South China Sea

Rajnath Singh has extended freedom of navigation in the South China Sea at the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus).

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh extends support to freedom of navigation in South China Sea
Rajnath Singh at ADMM-Plus meet.
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India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has extended freedom of navigation in the South China Sea at the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus). ADMM Plus is a significant platform involving 10 ASEAN member countries and 8 dialogue partners -- Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the United States.

Pointing out that, "developments in the South China Sea have attracted attention in the region and beyond", Rajnath Singh who addressed the gathering virtually said, "India supports freedom of navigation, over flight, and unimpeded commerce in these international waterways."

The statement comes even as China is well known to claim almost 90% of the South China Sea based on its "9 dash line" which has been dismissed by the UNCLOS or United Nations Conventions and Laws of the Sea. The Chinese claim has also perturbed its ASEAN neighbours, especially the Philipines.

During the address, the Defence minister said India "hopes that the Code of Conduct negotiations" between ASEAN and China "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."

At the annual meet, the Defence minister also mentioned Indo-Pacific calling for a "free, open and inclusive order" in this region which is based upon "respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations, peaceful resolution of disputes through dialogue and adherence to international rules and laws."

Indo-Pacific, geographically seen as a region from the eastern shores of Africa to the Pacific, is a vision that has been backed by India and the US, with more countries joining in the usage of the term. It sees Indian and the Pacific as a continuous entity, but Beijing sees it suspiciously.

Rajnath Singh explained, "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." The vision he said is "premised upon the centrality of ASEAN" with New Delhi supporting "utilization of ASEAN-led mechanisms as important platforms for the implementation of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific."

The issue of terrorism, radicalization, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief was also mentioned in the speech. ADMM-Plus was convened in Ha Noi, Vietnam, on 12 October 2010 and last year marked a decade since its inception.

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