New Delhi: In a guarded response to Tuesday’s landmark ruling at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea, India said it “has noted the award of the arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS)” and urged all states to “show utmost respect for UNCLOS”.
The award essentially ruled in favour of Philippines and invalidated “historic claims” China said it had to the South China Sea. The government of China has formally rejected the award and said it would neither recognise nor accept it.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said “India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. India believes that States should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.”
This is a position India has repeatedly taken and has also found echo in joint statements with the United States in 2014 and 2015.
“Sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development.,” the MEA statement added. “As a State Party to the UNCLOS, India urges all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.”