India defends rules-based maritime borders in Indo-Pacific: Rajnath
India upholds rules-based maritime borders in the Indo-Pacific in which no nation, regardless of size, can be allowed to exclude others from its fair use, Defense Minister Rajnath said on Saturday. Singh, amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
In his address to the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies, the Minister of Defense also called for effective collaboration among maritime nations to address maritime security challenges.
Singh asserted that India throughout history has been a peace-loving society that has never invaded any foreign land and has always respected the territorial integrity of other countries, while treating them as equal partners. .
He stressed that ocean space should be respected as a global commons to benefit all humanity in an environmentally sustainable manner.
“We stand for open, free and rules-based maritime borders in the Indo-Pacific, in which no nation, regardless of size, can be allowed to appropriate the global commons or exclude others from its fair use,” Singh said.
“We are always ready and willing to work with all like-minded partner countries through various forums in this endeavour,” he added.
His comments came amid growing concerns among major democratic powers over China’s increasing military muscle in the Indo-Pacific.
The Minister of Defense expressed India’s commitment to implementing international regulations, enacting maritime safety and security legislation, establishing cooperation mechanisms with nations and engaging in the capacity building of maritime law enforcement agencies.
He underlined that India is also encouraged by the effectiveness of agreements such as the Regional Cooperation Agreement for Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia and considers mutual cooperation to be alone the most effective means of ensuring safety and security at sea.
Singh said that India’s ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and ‘Rules-Based Order at Sea’ complement its approach to inclusive growth and sustainable collaboration in the region.
“With the continued growth of maritime traffic, the potential risk of marine pollution and search and rescue needs from any unwanted maritime incident have also increased,” he said.
“Recent oil spills have raised concerns about the maritime environment and the dangers it poses. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to threaten the long-term sustainability of the oceans,” said Singh.
He noted that smuggling, drug trafficking and human trafficking through maritime routes have made maritime law enforcement more difficult, stressing that an effective response strategy against such threats is the need for the ‘hour.
Singh appreciated the role of Coast Guard agencies in ensuring maritime safety and security.
He said that as maritime policing and law enforcement agencies, Coast Guard agencies bring distinctive capability and functionality to the table.
He called on the agencies to complement the capabilities of the respective national navies and jointly ensure a safe and secure maritime environment.
Singh hopes the maritime domain can be made conducive by ensuring a safe and secure maritime environment and cleaner seas through joint efforts.
The Indian Coast Guard is hosting the 18th Asian Coast Guard Chiefs Meeting (HACGAM) in Delhi from October 14-18.
A total of 55 representatives from 18 countries are participating.
Two international organizations – the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP ISC) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – Global Program Against Maritime Crime (UNODC-GMCP) also participate in the meeting.
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