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India backs PCA verdict on South China Sea

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jul 13, 2016, 6:44 am IST
Updated : Jul 13, 2016, 6:44 am IST

New Delhi had been strong votary of the freedom of navigation in international waters.

New Delhi had been strong votary of the freedom of navigation in international waters.

India — which is engaged in oil exploration projects with Vietnam in the South China Sea — strongly indicated in a late evening statement on Tuesday that China should accept the verdict of the international tribunal, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), at The Hague which on Tuesday ruled that China has no legal basis to claim “historic rights” to islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea. China has already indicated that it does not accept or recognise the verdict. Both India and the United States have been strong votaries of the freedom of navigation in international waters in the South China Sea. There were indications that New Delhi strongly welcomes the verdict although this has not been explicitly stated.

In its reaction, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said, “India has noted the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) in the matter concerning the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China. India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. India believes that states should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability. Sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development. As a State Party to the UNCLOS, India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.”

Sources said the reference to the fact that all parties must show “utmost respect for the UNCLOS” is a clear indication that New Delhi wants Beijing to accept the ruling. Interestingly, China which was citing “rules” to oppose India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) recently appears to have been exposed now after it indicated it was not ready to abide by the PCA verdict. India appears to be determined now to throw its weight behind the PCA verdict.

China is also wary about India’s strong naval cooperation and strategic ties with Vietnam in the South China Sea. China and Vietnam are also locked in dispute over the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. China has been objecting to India’s oil exploration projects with Vietnam in the maritime region.

In October, 2014, just five months after the Modi government had assumed office, India had signed a pact with its strategic south-east Asian partner Vietnam for participation in two additional oil exploration blocks in “Vietnamese waters” in the South China Sea.

At the time, India was already participating in three blocks and this had taken the total number to five. India had accepted the offer from Vietnam after being convinced of its commercial viability.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi