India on Wednesday reiterated its commitment to respecting the rights of all nations as per the UN Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS) 1982.
UNCLOS 1982, also known as Law of the Sea divides marine areas into five main zones namely- Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and the High Seas.
Addressing the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) virtually, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, "India is committed to respecting rights of all nations as per UN Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS) 1982. We are fully determined to protect the legitimate rights and interests of our country in relation to our territorial water and exclusive economic zone while supporting the maintenance of a rule-based maritime system as mandated under UNCLOS 1982.
Talking about the challenges of contemporary times, Singh focussed on terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking and climate change. "While the seas are for abundant opportunities, sustenance, and growth of mankind, it has its own set of challenges. The competition over resources has intensified, the rise of serious threats such as terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, and climate change has thrown new challenges for our Indo-Pacific region," said the Defence Minister.
"The nature of these challenges in the region has considerably trans-national implications which require a cooperative response, therefore, need to find a convergence of interest and commonality of purpose on maritime issues," he added.
Singh said that he is glad that this year's Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue takes into account these challenges and convergences to build greater consensus.
"Topic for this IPRD - the evolution of maritime strategy during the 21st century rests upon region pasts, gazes at present and then arrive at tenets that will form the foundation of maritime strategy for the future - Samundra Manthan. I am sure that the IPRD would be crucial for the intellectual churn of ideas which would result in practical outcomes that can serve as an "Amrit" or the "elixir" of life, similar to the mythological event," said Singh.
He also talked about the historicity of the Indo-Pacific and said that the oceans have shaped human history from time immemorial, influencing the evolution of life as well as culture.
"The seas are a vital communication link to facilitate the transport of goods, exchange of ideas, catering innovations, and contributing to bringing the world closure," said Singh.
Speaking about the Western maritime trade route, he said, "From an Indian perspective, looking west, archaeological explorations have revealed ancient maritime connections with other civilizations like Mesopotamia - modern-day Iraq, Dilmun - modern-day Bahrain, and Magan - modern-day Oman. Maritime linkages and early exchange of goods, culture is foundational for mutual prosperity in the past and continue to remain as such even today."
While, speaking about the Eastern maritime route, he said, " Looking East, maritime linkages also played a vital role in taking Buddhism across the region - from Sri Lanka, Southeast Asian countries till Korea. The amalgamation of ancient Indian folklore, such as Ramayana and Mahabharata in Southeast Asian cultures is also a result of the maritime linkages. In fact, the regions were so interlinked that according to folklore, an Indian princess of Ayodhya married a Korean prince way back in the year 48 AD. I am made to understand that even today, some families in Korea can trace their ancestry to this Korean-Indian couple."
He also stressed the littoral states of the Indo-Pacific, Singh said, "The littoral states of Indo-Pacific are full of such interconnectedness and all of us are maritime neighbors, whose relations are rooted in civilizational context developed through the seas."
He also emphasized Prime Minister Narendra Modi's description of the Indo-Pacific. "Honourable Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi's description of the Indo-Pacific has a natural region, where destinies of entities are interlinked, finds its roots in this people-to-people connect, facilitated by our maritime heritage. Knowledge of this common history, driven by the oceans, essential to us understanding where the regions stand today and a trajectory for the future," said the Defence Minister.
"Even in contemporary times, although Indo-Pacific is characterized by the diversity and marked by a multiplicity of cultures, ethnicities, economic models, governance systems, the oceans remain common binding links. The efficient, cooperative, and collaborative formations of regions' maritime potential thus remain essential for sustaining a path to prosperity," he added. (ANI)