India says South China Sea belongs to global commons

The US has been conducting military exercises in the area since July 4

south china sea reuters [File] An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged land reclamation by China on Mischief reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea | Reuters

Amid the war of words between the US and China over the latter’s claim on the South China Sea, India has reminded Beijing that the South China Sea was part of the global commons.

The area, China has been trying to claim as its own, is surrounded by nations including Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Vietnam. The US has been conducting military exercises in the South China Sea since July 4 in an attempt to champion a “free and open Indo-Pacific”. The US on July 14 said China’s claim on the South China Sea was unlawful. China, however, opposed the US, saying that the US is not a country directly involved in disputes.

US Secretary of the State Mike Pompeo had said that the US stands with the international community in the defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and rejects any push to impose "might makes right" in the South China Sea or the wider region.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that India has an abiding interest in peace and stability in the region.

Srivastava also said India believes that any differences be resolved peacefully by respecting the legal and diplomatic processes and without resorting to threat or use of force.

“We firmly stand for the freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded lawful commerce in these international waterways, in accordance with international law, notably UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)," he said.