Jakarta: India and Indonesia on Wednesday underlined the importance of a free, open, transparent, rules-based and peaceful Indo-Pacific region, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the strategic East and South China Seas.
Noting that both India and Indonesia are maritime neighbours and sea faring nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indonesian President Joko Widodo issued the shared vision of the two countries on maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The document, the first with any Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) country, outlines areas of maritime cooperation and envisages security architecture in the Indo-Pacific region, external affairs ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
The document reiterated the importance of achieving a “free, open, transparent, rules-based, peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, where sovereignty and territorial integrity, international law, in particular UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), freedom of navigation and overflight, sustainable development and an open, free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment system are respected".
The release of the document comes at a time when China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region.
China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims. In the East China Sea, Beijing has territorial disputes with Japan.
The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade.
Prime Minister Modi and President Widodo said they were keen to strengthen bilateral maritime cooperation for promotion of peace, stability and bringing in robust economic growth and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific region.
Noting that with a coastline of 7,500 kms, India occupies a central position in the Indo-Pacific, while Indonesia as the largest archipelagic State in the world, with a coastline of 108,000 kms, is a fulcrum that connects the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
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The two oceans represent a combined maritime region which is important for global maritime trade and commerce, the document said. It highlighted the importance to adhering to the rights and obligations under the international law including the Charter of the United Nations, the 1982 UNCLOS and the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).
The two countries acknowledged the need to maintain maritime safety and security for peace, stability and sustainable economic growth and development in the maritime waters of the Indo-Pacific region as enshrined by UNCLOS and relevant international laws.
It noted that free and open seas, as regulated by UNCLOS, are essential for peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the international community.
The document also highlighted the importance to address the emerging maritime security issues facing the Indo-Pacific region including the smuggling of people, arms, drugs and money; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and the movement of terrorists. It recognised the importance of the blue economy as a driver of inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development in the region.
The document said both sides have agreed to encourage greater flow of goods, services, investment and technology between the two countries and the region to further develop their economies sustainably.
The two countries also agreed to combat climate change and ensure protection of environment and natural resources. They also agreed to combat marine plastic debris through bilateral and regional cooperation.
India and Indonesia have decided to expand cooperation in disaster risk management, especially aid to victims of disasters. The two countries agreed to boost the existing naval cooperation including the bilateral coordinated patrols initiated in 2002 between the Navies of the two countries and commencement of regular bilateral naval exercises.
They concurred to build on the existing maritime boundary agreements and reaffirming support to the technical meetings for expeditious negotiations for a mutually acceptable solution on the delimitation of maritime boundaries between the two countries based on the principles of international law, including UNCLOS.