As India seeks to give teeth to its 'Act East' policy, the government on Wednesday asked
China's 9-dash-line claims almost the entire SCS and Beijing continues to maintain that UNCLOS doesn't have the mandate to deal with territorial issues.
That the Narendra Modi government is willing to take up China over the dispute has been evident from the manner in which Modi and President Barack Obama have sought to mention and highlight the issue in Indo-US bilateral documents. The two countries even issued a Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region in January this year in which they affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the SCS.
Speaking at the 5th East Asia Summit foreign ministers' Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, minister of state for external affairs V K Singh said territorial disputes must be settled through peaceful means "as was done by India and Bangladesh recently using the mechanisms provided under UNCLOS''. It must be mentioned here that the verdict by a UN tribunal in the case of that dispute went in favour of Bangladesh. India reacted by saying that it was committed to abiding by the outcome of the process.
Singh expressed hope that all parties to the disputes in the SCS will abide by the guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the region.
"We further support efforts for the early adoption of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea on the basis of consensus,'' said Singh.
Foreign ministers of several ASEAN countries have been pushing China for a Code of Conduct in the SCS to prevent an escalation of tension in the region. At least four other countries have competing claims to parts of SCS - Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
"In a world of inter-dependence and globalization, there is no option but to follow international laws and norms. India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including the South China Sea, the right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,'' said Singh. - timesoindia