'India supports freedom of navigation in global waters'

Against the backdrop of growing Chinese assertion in the Asia-Pacific region, on Thursday, India said that it supports the “freedom of navigation” in international waters, adding that any disputes or differences in the region must be resolved diplomatically.

Defence Minister A K Antony, who was in Bangkok on a day-long visit, held wide ranging talks with his Thai counterpart Air Chief Marshal Sukhumpol Suwanatat, calling for cooperation in several areas, including keeping open sea lanes and taking measures to tackle piracy.

He also offered to cooperate with Thailand in the field of defence production. Thailand praised India’s indigenously developed defence capabilities.

Antony said that both India and Thailand had large stakes in the maintenance of peace and stability in its immediate neighbourhood and in the wider Asia Pacific region.

“Our trade is dependent on the sea lanes. Hence, security of the sea lanes and freedom of navigation is critical to our economic and overall security. India supports the freedom of navigation in accordance with the principles of international law,” he said, in his talks with Suwanatat.

Noting that peace and stability was in the interest of all countries in the region, Antony said, “We support the resolution of differences and disputes through the process of dialogue and consensus, between the parties to such disputes.”

“All countries must exercise restraint and resolve issues diplomatically, according to the principles of international law,” he said.

Antony’s comments came amidst China’s extended presence in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

China has in the recent past used its naval ships and aircrafts to intimidate neighbouring countries, including Japan which has led to a dispute with Beijing over maritime rights.

China has also increased presence of its maritime forces, including submarines and warships, in the Indian Ocean Region.

During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangkok last week, Thailand had expressed interest in India’s defence industry, due to it’s competitive production and advanced technology.

Both countries had agreed to pursue a defence industry collaboration in areas of mutual interest.

The two defence ministers also discussed measures to further expand their defence cooperation. The two countries also agreed to increase their service to service contact between the Army, Navy and Air Force.

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