India, US pitch for freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce in South China Sea

India and the US today pitched for freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded commerce in accordance with international laws for a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region, amidst increasing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her US counterpart Rex Tillerson also discussed further strengthening of the Indo-US strategic partnership and collaboration on security and prosperity” in the Indo-Pacific region.

She said the two sides have agreed to hold the inaugural meeting of 2+2 dialogue at an early date. The 2+2 dialouge involves talks between the defence and the external affairs ministers.

“We also reaffirmed the importance of freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded commerce in accordance with international laws in order to achieve a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” Swaraj said in a joint press conference with Tillerson here, without any reference to China.

On his part, Tillerson said the US also looks for further cooperation in the broader Indo-Pacific region as both India and the US promote a rules-based and sustainable approach towards economic development.

Ahead of his visit, Tillerson had last week said the US was India’s “reliable partner” at the world stage in this period of uncertainty and angst.

He also referred to the rise of China, saying its behaviour and action were “posing a challenge to the rules- based international order”.

Swaraj also said during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US this year, both countries had agreed on a set of principles that should guide connectivity initiatives in this region, particularly the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Secretary Tillerson and I agreed that we will work together and with other partners to promote cooperation based on these principles,” she added.

The two sides also deliberated on economic partnership, and agreed to work more closely to “unlock” the potential in their bilateral economic cooperation.

“The sustained growth of the Indian economy will unleash more opportunities for greater India-US economic engagement. Our Cabinet colleagues will hold in-depth discussion in Washington DC over the next two days,” the external affairs minister said.

By: Financial Express

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