BENGALURU: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, in an apparent reference to the disputed South China Sea, said conflicting claims in some maritime areas have seen negative impact, amid continued border standoff with China. Maritime resources will be key to sustained growth and development of nations across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in the ongoing century, he said delivering his keynote address at the IOR Defence Ministers’ Conclave held on the margins of Aero India-2021, India’s premier defence and aerospace show.

“We have already seen the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world.We must, therefore, ensure that the maritime expanse of the Indian Ocean is peaceful and is optimally harnessed for the benefit of all nations in the region,” the Minister said.

China and India are locked in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh since May 5 last.

The two countries have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks to resolve the face-off, but no significant headway has been made so far.

The United States and China are currently engaged in a bitter confrontation over various issues, including the aggressive military moves in the disputed South China Sea.

In his address, Singh said IOR countries have together demonstrated their mutual respect for a rules based order, setting an example of how abiding with international law will enable harnessing the global commons for the good of all.

He said the conclave is an initiative to promote dialogue in an institutional and cooperative environment that can foster the development of peace, stability and prosperity in the IOR.

India being the largest country and having a vast coastline of 7500 Km in the IOR region, has to play an active role for peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all IOR countries, he said.

“We all have a shared asset, that is, the Indian Ocean,” Singh said.

“It is an important lifeline to international trade and transport as it commands control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the worlds container ships, one third of the worlds bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the worlds oil shipments.”

The present maritime security scenario in IOR is posing a number of challenges such as piracy, smuggling of drugs/people and arms, humanitarian and disaster relief, and Search & Rescue (SAR).

Maritime collaboration and co-operation among IOR countries can help meet these challenges effectively and efficiently and ensure peace and stability in the region.

“We, therefore, have to join hands in looking at these threats in unison, because ones threat today may be anothers tomorrow,” he said.

“In order to synergise efforts of all IOR countries to ensure safety and security in this region, it is high time that we take our economy, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration to the higher level,” Singh added.

According to an official statement, Defence Ministers, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and senior officials from 27 of 28 countries from the region attended the event physically or in virtual mode.

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