US sees growing role for India in South China Sea top Biden admin official

By Yoshita Singh
    New York, Jun 29 (PTI) The US sees a growing role for India in the disputed South China Sea and there will be a collaboration between Washington and New Delhi in this strategically vital region, a top Biden administration official said, amid growing Chinese aggression in the area.
    These remarks were made by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Kritenbrink on Wednesday at the Thirteenth Annual South China Sea Conference by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.
    China claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea (SCS) as its sovereign territory. China has been building military bases on artificial islands in the region also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
    Responding to a question on if Kritenbrink sees a growing role for India in the South China Sea and if there will be US-India collaboration in this, “Yes, I do. And yes, I think we will.” he said.
    Beijing has impeded commercial activity like fishing or mineral exploration by countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, claiming that the ownership of territory belonged to China for hundreds of years.
    The US is periodically deploying its naval ships and fighter planes to assert freedom of navigation.
    Kritenbrink said the growth of the US-India partnership and certainly the revitalisation and expansion of the activities of the Quad - the grouping with Australia, Japan, India and the US - “are some of the most significant strategic developments I think I've seen in my lifetime.”
    He added that this is not limited to the US-India issue per se.
    "I think our focus across the entire region, again, is building the capacity of allies, partners and friends, and for all countries who share that vision that we want to live in a world that's peaceful and stable.”
    “We're all countries, large and small, that follow the same rules. We will welcome cooperation with any country that embraces that vision. That of course includes India. I think it includes most of our partners across Asia,” he said.
    Kritenbrink said the US maintains that all South China Sea claimants should comport their maritime claims with international law, as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.
    “We also believe that South China Sea claimant states should be able to exercise, without interference, threats or coercion, their sovereign rights and jurisdiction over natural resources in their exclusive economic zones and on their continental shelves.”
    In the joint statement issued last week during the State Visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden reiterated their enduring commitment to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous India-Pacific region with respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, and international law.
    “Both leaders expressed concern over coercive actions and rising tensions, and strongly oppose destabilising or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force.
    Both sides emphasised the importance of adherence to international law, particularly as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, in addressing challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East and South China Seas,” the joint statement said.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)