Amid Tensions Over South China Sea, India Tells China, Philippines to Adhere to Global Law

New Delhi: India on Friday, August 11, called for adherence to international law and peaceful resolution of disputes after tensions flared up last weekend after Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard of firing water cannons to stop movement of its vessels in South China Sea.

Last Saturday, a Chinese coast guard ship used water cannon to block a Filipino supply boat that was delivering fresh troops, fuel and essential commodities to a warship deliberately grounded by Philippines in the Second Thomas Shoal. Describing China’s actions as “illegal”, the Philippines had summoned the Chinese ambassador on Monday to lodge a strong protest.

The United States, Australia, Japan, and European Union were prompt in expressing support for Philippines and concern at China’s aggressive actions. China admitted that water cannon was used “as a warning”, accusing Manila of not implementing a commitment to remove the warship from the shoal.

In answer to a media query on Friday, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India has been maintaining that the issues need to be resolved peacefully. “We have a long-standing position on the need to adhere to the international law in the context of issues relating to South China Sea and also for a rules based order,” he said.

Bagchi underlined that India had always the need for peaceful settlements of disputes. “We would certainly urge the parties to follow that as well as ensure that these incidents do not happen,” he said.

Despite an international arbitral tribunal, established under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), invalidating China’s claims in 2016, China persists in asserting ownership over nearly the entire South China Sea and dismissing the ruling.

India has recently changed its position and asked for parties to abide by the 2016 arbitration award. The change in India’s posture was mentioned in a joint statement issued by India and the Philippines after the fifth Joint Commission on bilateral cooperation during the visit of the Filipino foreign minister to New Delhi in June.

“They (the ministers) underlined the need for a peaceful settlement of disputes and for an adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea in this regard,” said the joint statement dated June 29.

The MEA spokesperson, however, did not reiterate the reference to the adherence to the 2016 ruling in his statement at the media briefing.

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