NEW DELHI, OCT 30: In a veiled criticism of China’s aggressive behaviour against its neighbours, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday asserted that ‘Might is Right’ has no place in the maritime order and that a free, open and rules-based maritime order should be a priority for all.
”Adherence to international laws and agreements must be our lodestar. Our narrow immediate interests may tempt us to flout or disregard the well-established international law, but doing so would lead to the breakdown of our civilised maritime relations.
“Our common security and prosperity cannot be preserved without all of us committing to cooperatively adhering to the legitimate maritime rules of engagement,” he said while delivering his keynote address at the fourth edition of the Goa Maritime Conclave.
The minister said fair rules of engagement are crucial for fostering collaboration and ensuring that no single country dominates others in a hegemonic manner.
He also called for establishing multinational collaborative mitigation frameworks in the Indian Ocean Region to effectively tackle common maritime challenges such as climate change, piracy, terrorism, drug-trafficking, overfishing and freedom of commerce on high seas.
The three-day conclave, which commenced on Sunday, is being attended by Delegate in Charge of Defence of Comoros Mohamed Ali Youssoufa and Chiefs of Navies/Heads of Maritime Forces/Senior representatives from eleven other Indian Ocean nations–Bangladesh, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Singh emphasised that common maritime priorities need to be addressed cooperatively by avoiding selfish interests that make the region less secure and less prosperous. He underlined the importance of respecting the international maritime laws, as enunciated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.
On climate change, he stated that the collaborative mitigation framework can involve the countries working together to reduce carbon emissions and transition to sustainable practices. He pointed out that the world could overcome this problem if all countries accepted the responsibility to cut emissions by investing in a green economy and sharing technology and capital with the needy countries.
The defence minister also referred to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a challenge which relates to resource over-exploitation.
“IUU fishing endangers ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. It also threatens our economic security and regional and global food security. A multinational collaborative effort for compilation and sharing of surveillance data is the need of the hour. It will help in identifying actors with irregular or threatening behaviour, which will have to be countered resolutely,” he said.
To put in place these mitigation frameworks, the minister called for collaboration, and sharing of resources and expertise among nations. He elaborated it further by explaining the difference between narrow national self-interest and mutual benefit based on enlightened self-interest of all nations.