NEW DELHI: As China continued to protest Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh , India and Malaysia emphasised on Saturday that all nations show respect to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in resolving maritime disputes.
The emphasis on UNCLOS in the joint statement issued after PM Modi‘s meeting with his counterpart Najib Abdul Razak is significant even though there was no specific mention of South China Sea where China is embroiled in territorial disputes with several countries, including Malaysia.
The last time the two leaders met in 2015, the joint statement did not even in passing refer to any aspect of maritime disputes afflicting the region.
The meeting also saw the two countries signing seven agreements, including one on air services to enhance connectivity. Modi and Najib reiterated their commitment to respecting freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce based on the principles of international law, as reflected in the UNCLOS, 1982.
“They urged all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoid unilateral actions that raise tensions,” the statement said. This is significant because China has shown scant regard for an order by an international tribunal, formed under UNCLOS, last year invalidating its claim over almost all of South China Sea.
Modi too mentioned the importance of freedom of navigation and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, especially its oceans. The two leaders also discussed terrorism and radicalisation. Malaysia endorsed India’s position that countries should not encourage and finance terrorism or extol the virtues of terror groups.
“They asserted that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terror organisations but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against states, which encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups. There should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs,” it said. Najib gifted a book on Malaysia’s de-radicalisation programme to Modi.
“We are willing to work closely together with the Indian government for special conference that will be held in near future and we will provide our experience and with our partners to make sure Malaysia and other parts of the world will never be a place in which militancy and extremism will take root,” he said. The two countries also agreed to enhance defence exchanges through dialogue between the defence ministers.
Malaysia recently also agreed to waive off visa fee for Indians and has promised to make the process for acquiring visas simpler.