Posted by- Sitanshu Kar from Singapore
Saturday, June 02, 2012
Defense Minister AK Antony said contentious issues relating to maritime domain should only be ‘resolved through the process of dialogue, consensus building and within the framework of accepted principles of international law’. Addressing the 11th Asia Security Summit, also known as Shangri La Dialogue, in Singapore, Antony said the international community must ‘remain sensitive to the problems of smaller nations and ensure that their rights, as equal members of the global community, are not overlooked or compromised’. He said the spirit of cooperation among international community shown in anti-piracy measures can be extended to ‘de-conflict contentious maritime issues’.
“Large parts of the common seas cannot be declared exclusive to any one country or group. We must find the balance between the rights of nations and the freedoms of the world community in the maritime domain. Like individual freedoms, the fullness of maritime freedoms can be realized only when all states, big and small, are willing to abide by universally agreed laws and principles”, he said.
As countries seek to bolster their capabilities to respond to perceived challenges in the maritime domain, there is also a need to avoid conflict and build consensus. In this connection, keeping in view the issues which have arisen with regard to the South China Sea, he said, India has welcomed the efforts of the parties concerned in engaging in discussions. New Delhi has also welcomed the recently agreed guidelines on the implementation of the 2002 Declaration of the Conduct of Parties between China and the ASEAN. “We hope that the issues will be resolved through dialogue and negotiations."
Outlining India’s security concerns, Antony said it is intimately tied to the security and prosperity of the extended Indian Ocean Region, which also includes the Asia Pacific region. A significant percentage of our global mercantile trade – almost 90% by volume and 77% by value – is carried by sea. India has a coastline of over 7500 kilometres; the chain of the Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands to the West and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the East, cover more than 600 islands, the northern most tip being just 10 nautical miles from Myanmar and the southernmost tip 90 nautical miles from Indonesia. "Our EEZ is more than 2.5 million square kilometres and the mining areas allotted to us under UNCLOS are about 2000 km from our southern most tip. As in other parts of the world, the seas around us are now believed to have substantial hydrocarbon potential. As we seek to satisfy the growing demand for mineral resources to meet our growth and development aspirations, we will seek to increase our investments in the exploration of our maritime domain."
Antony said given India’s geographical location, extensive maritime interests, dependence on the seas for trade and the evolving asymmetric threats in the form of maritime terrorism, piracy and drug trafficking, maritime security issues have become a strategic priority. There are two different aspects to this imperative. The first is the concern for safeguarding of our territories and our adjacent waters against seaborne threats. The second is the desire to ensure that the traditional freedoms at sea are preserved to ensure access for all. He said India will make its contribution for the evolution of an open, transparent and inclusive maritime security architecture that would ensure the protection and preservation of maritime freedoms.
Turning to piracy, i Antony said the menace needs to be thwarted and suppressed by robust anti-piracy operations, as well as through speedy prosecution of the guilty. A permanent solution to the threat of piracy will require sustained and concerted efforts by the international community, at sea and on land.