India on Thursday said the South China Sea is a "part of global commons" and it firmly stands for the freedom of navigation and overflight in these international waterways, an assertion that comes days after the US rejected most of China's maritime claims in the region.
India's assertion comes after the Trump administration, in a major policy decision, categorically rejected the territorial claims made by Beijing in the South China Sea, stating that it has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Asked about the US' assertion, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said India has articulated its position on the South China Sea on several occasions in the past and most recently on May 21, 2020.
"Our position on this issue has been clear and consistent. South China Sea is a part of global commons and India has an abiding interest in peace and stability in the region," he said. "We firmly stand for the freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in these international waterways, in accordance with international law, notably UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," Srivastava said.
India also believes that any differences be resolved peacefully by respecting the legal and diplomatic processes and without resorting to threat or use of force, he said. The MEA spokesperson's remarks come after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday categorically rejected the territorial claims made by Beijing in the South China Sea, and asserted that the "Chinese predatory world view" has no place in the 21st century.
"The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law," Pompeo had said in a major policy announcement.
The United States, he had said, stands with the international community in the defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and rejects any push to impose "might makes right" in the South China Sea or the wider region. Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China has impeded commercial activity like fishing or mineral exploration by countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.