The key focus of the India-ASEAN virtual summit was the South China Sea and alternate supply chains

New Delhi: The South China Sea and alternate supply chains were the key focus of the India-ASEAN virtual summit both reaffirming the importance of "upholding 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS". The development comes, even as Chinese aggressiveness exists not only with India but with members of 10-member strong ASEAN grouping.

Secretary East in Ministry of External Affairs, Riva Ganguly Das said, "The discussions also covered regional and international issues of common interest and concern including the South China Sea and Terrorism. Both sides noted the importance of promoting a rules-based order in the region including through upholding adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS."

Das added, "The leaders affirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, safety and security in the South China Sea in particular freedom of navigation and overflight."

China had refused to accept the UNCLOS award of 2016 that Beijing doesn't have rights on a large portion of the South China Sea based on the so-called "nine-dash line".

On mega-trade pact Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Secretary reiterated that "we did not join RCEP as it does not address the outstanding issues and concerns of India, however, we remain committed to deepening our trade relations with ASEAN".

The 15 member RCEP trade deal is set to be signed on Sunday. New Delhi had withdrawn from the deal over China flooding its markets, among many reasons. 

At the 17th India-ASEAN Virtual summit, India also announced USD one million for COVID-19 ASEAN response fund.