Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for joint efforts to strengthen sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations even as he said India believes a code of conduct for South China Sea should be effective and compliant with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In an address at the East Asia Summit, Modi, referring to geopolitical conflicts, reiterated that “today’s era is not of war” and dialogue and diplomacy is the only path to resolution of conflicts.

The prime minister said terrorism, extremism, and geopolitical conflicts are “big challenges” for “all of us” and that the present global landscape is surrounded by challenging circumstances and uncertainties.

“It is imperative to adhere fully to international laws; And everyone’s commitment and joint efforts are also necessary to strengthen the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” he said.

“As I have said before — today’s era is not of war. Dialogue and diplomacy is the only path to resolution,” Modi said.

At a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 16 last year in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Modi said, “Today’s era is not of war” and nudged the Russian leader to end the Ukraine conflict.

The East Asia Summit is the premier forum in the Asia-Pacific region to deal with issues relating to security and defence. Since its inception in 2005, it has played a significant role in the strategic, geopolitical and economic evolution of East Asia.

Apart from the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, the East Asia Summit includes India, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Russia.

Modi’s comments on the South China Sea came amid increasing global concerns over China’s military muscle-flexing in the region.

Few days back, a number of ASEAN member countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines reacted sharply to Beijing’s territorial claim over the South China Sea in its latest edition of the “standard map of China”.

On August 28, Beijing released the 2023 edition of the “standard map of China” that includes Taiwan, the South China Sea, Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as Chinese territories. India has dismissed the ‘map’ and lodged a strong protest with China over it.

The ASEAN countries have been insisting on a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea largely in view of China’s consistent attempts to assert its expansive claims over the region.

“The need of the hour is such that an Indo-Pacific – where international law, including UNCLOS, is equally applicable to all countries; where there is freedom of navigation and overflight; and where there is unimpeded lawful commerce for the benefit of everyone,” Modi said.

“India believes that the Code of Conduct for South China Sea should be effective and in accordance with UNCLOS. Additionally, it should take into consideration the interests of countries that are not directly involved in the discussions,” he said.

In his remarks, Modi also said India’s policy in Myanmar takes into account ASEAN’s views. Myanmar has been under international scrutiny after its military seized power in a coup in February 2021.

“At the same time, as a neighbouring country, ensuring peace and security on the borders; And enhancing India-ASEAN connectivity is also our focus. Peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, is in the interest of us all,” Modi said.

Referring to challenges facing developing countries, the prime minister said challenges pertaining to climate change, cyber security, food security, health, and energy are particularly impacting the Global South.

“During our G20 presidency, we are focusing on these important issues related to the Global South,” he said.

A statement issued at the end of the East Asia summit said the leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to reinforce an open, transparent, and inclusive regional architecture, anchored in international law, with ASEAN at the centre as guided by the purposes and principles of ASEAN and ASEAN-led mechanisms. (IE)