Unimpeded freedom of navigation vital: Rajnath

India’s proposal to chair an expert working group on counter-terrorism endorsed by Defence Ministers from ASEAN, partner countries; Minister calls for collaboration on peace, prosperity and security

November 16, 2023 01:40 pm | Updated November 17, 2023 03:10 am IST - New Delhi

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during the 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 16, 2023.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during the 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 16, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

India is committed to the freedom of navigation, overflight, and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters, and supports the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday.

Addressing the 10th meeting of Defence Ministers from countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its dialogue partners in Indonesia, he reaffirmed ASEAN’s centrality and appreciated its role in promoting dialogue and consensus in the region.

Later, Mr. Singh also held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Indonesia and Vietnam.

The ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) is a platform to strengthen security and defence cooperation for the 10 ASEAN member States and their eight dialogue partners — India, Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States — which are collectively known as the Plus countries. India became an ASEAN dialogue partner in 1992, and the inaugural ADMM-Plus was convened in 2010.

Security collaboration

“The Defence Minister called for regional security initiatives that are consultative and development-oriented to reflect the larger consensus among various stakeholders. He committed towards nurturing practical, forward-looking and result-oriented cooperation with ADMM-Plus for enhancing maritime security in the region,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Mr. Singh called for active collaboration among ASEAN and Plus countries. Noting that conflicts extract a terrible toll in terms of human lives lost and livelihoods destroyed, apart from disturbing regional and global stability, and affecting food and energy security, he reiterated India’s commitment to work with ASEAN and Plus countries to ensure peace, prosperity, and security, which is an apt theme for this year’s ADMM Plus, the statement said.

India to chair counter-terror group

The Defence Minister appreciated ASEAN members’ enthusiastic participation in India-ASEAN activities, particularly initiatives for women in UN peacekeeping operations, and for a marine plastic pollution response. The maiden ASEAN-India maritime exercise was held in May this year.

India and Indonesia are co-chairs of ASEAN’s expert working group on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities in the current 2020-2023 cycle. Recognising that terrorism is a serious threat to international peace and security, including in the ASEAN region, India also proposed to co-chair the expert working group on counter-terrorism. This proposal was endorsed by ADMM-Plus, as terrorism remains a serious concern to countries in the region, the statement added.

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