South-China Sea: India for 'unhindered' freedom of navigation

South-China Sea: India for 'unhindered' freedom of navigation

Against the backdrop of disputes in the South-China Sea involving China, Defence Minister A K Antony today said India believes in "unhindered" freedom of navigation in international waters.

Interacting with reporters here, he also said that maritime disputes between nations should be settled with negotiations and discussion and without any third-party intervention.

"India strongly believes in international waters and there should be unhindered freedom of navigation for all the countries," he said.

Underlining the importance of international laws on maritime issues, Antony said, "The freedom (for navigation in international waters) must be as per the expected procedure and international laws."

On settlement of disputes between countries, he said, "Whenever any dispute arises between countries, we believe it should be settled through negotiations and discussions among the parties themselves, not by any third-party intervention. That is our approach."

Last week, Antony had addressed the Asia Security Conference at Singapore and had voiced India's position for freedom of navigation in international waters.

Asked about the planned buildup by America in the region, he said, "Regarding US strategy, I do not want to comment much. Our stand I have explained in Singapore."

During the conference, the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had announced that Washington is moving the majority of its warships into Asia-Pacific region in the coming years.

Asked about the outcome of his meeting with Secretary Panetta who was on a two-day visit to India, the Minister said it will further improve the relations between New Delhi and Washington.

"Our relation with the US is steadily improving and this visit also, I am sure, will further strengthen our relations," the Minister said.

Antony termed the US agreeing to India's demand for Transfer of Technology (ToT) while supplying military hardware as a "major breakthrough" during Panetta's visit.

"One major breakthrough in this meeting is, we told them apart from the buyer-seller relations, we want technology transfer and that they have agreed," he said.

When asked to clarify on a media report claiming that he was recently briefed by Intelligence Bureau (IB) on leakage of former Army Chief General V K Singh's confidential letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said, "Recently I have not met anybody from IB."

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