Defence Minister A. K. Antony on Friday stressed that India strongly “believes in unhindered freedom” of navigation in international waters as per universally agreed laws, principles and norms.
Referring to his June 2 address at the 11 Asian Security Summit in Singapore, Mr. Antony said that he had made India's position amply clear there while speaking on “Protecting Maritime Freedoms.”
In an obvious reference to disputes in the South-China Sea where China's presence and influence was growing, Mr. Antony said that maritime disputes between nations should be settled through negotiations and discussions among themselves without any third-party intervention.
Football team feted
The Minister was talking to journalists in South Block after felicitating the members of the football team of the Services who recently won the Santosh Trophy and those from the Services who had won medals during Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010.
Elaborating on India's position on settlement of disputes between countries, Mr. Antony said: “Whenever any dispute arises between countries, we believe it should be settled through negotiations and discussions among the parties themselves and not by any third-party intervention. India does not believe in policy of confrontation. That is our approach in West Asia also.”
Unwilling to comment on the U.S. strategy in the Asia Pacific region where it plans to increase its presence, he said: “Regarding U.S. strategy, I do not want to comment much. I have explained our stand in Singapore.” In Singapore, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who later visited India also, had announced that the U.S. would be moving the majority of its warships into Asia-Pacific region over the next few years.
Talks with Panetta
When asked about his discussions with Mr. Panetta, the Defence Minister expressed the hope that India-U.S. relations would further improve and would be strengthened. Describing the U.S.' acceptance of India's demand for transfer of technology while supplying military hardware as a “major breakthrough” achieved during Mr. Panetta's visit to New Delhi, Mr. Antony said that apart from the buyer-seller relations (with the U.S.) India wanted technology transfer and the U.S. has agreed to it.
When his attention was drawn to a report in a section of the press claiming that he had recently been briefed by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) on leakage of former Army Chief General V.K. Singh's confidential letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Minister said: “Recently I have not met anybody from IB.”
On the forthcoming round of talks between Defence Secretaries of India and Pakistan to be held in Islamabad on Siachen, Mr. Antony said “no dramatic announcement or decision” should be expected.
Stressing that Siachen was “very important” for national security, he said that India would adhere to its clear-cut stand on the issue at the Defence Secretary-level talks in Islamabad on June 11-12.
“Do not expect dramatic announcement or decision there on an issue which is very, very important for us — specially in the context of national security. From one round of discussion, you cannot expect a dramatic announcement. Our stand will be explained by the Defence Secretary there,” he told journalists.
“We have very clear-cut position, since discussions are going to take place, I do not want to reply to it here,” he added.
In a meeting here on Thursday, the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, discussed the position of India on Siachen issue. Recently, Pakistan had lost about 130 soldiers in an avalanche on the glacial heights, prompting Islamabad to again harp on demilitarisation of Siachen, world's highest battlefield.