Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus

Siem Reap: Amid China's growing assertiveness on maritime issues, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday reaffirmed India's call for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific region.

Speaking at the 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting, during the Cambodia-chaired ADMM Plus gathering at Siem Reap, Singh said, " India advocates free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region and calls for peaceful resolution of disputes while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations."

Singh reiterated India's commitment to nurturing practical, forward-looking and result-oriented cooperation between India and ADMM Plus countries for enhancing the maritime security in the region and safety of the global commons, read the Ministry of Defence press release.

Without naming anyone country or incident in particular, he also raised concerns about "complicating actions and incidents" that have eroded trust and confidence and undermined peace and stability in the region.

"India stands for the freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, peaceful settlement of maritime disputes and adherence to international law, particularly, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982," he said.

Singh also hoped that the ongoing negotiations on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea will be fully consistent with international law, in particular, UNCLOS, and should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not a party to these discussions.

Singh said ASEAN Defence Ministers are meeting when the world is seeing increasing strife amplified by disruptive politics. "A peaceful Indo-Pacific, with ASEAN at its centre, becomes vital more than ever for the security and prosperity of the world," he said.

The Defence Minister also described transnational and cross-border terrorism as the gravest threat that the world is facing and called for urgent and resolute intervention by the international community.

Addressing the ASEAN ministers, Singh said, "The gravest threat requiring urgent and resolute intervention by the international community is transnational and cross-border terrorism. Indifference can no longer be a response, as terrorism has found victims globally."

The minister highlighted how terrorist groups had created interlinkages across continents backed by new-age technologies to transfer money and recruit supporters. "The transformation of cyber-crimes into organized cyber-attacks points to the increasing use of new technologies, by both, State and non-State actors," he added.

He also noted how the United Nations Security Council Committee on Counter-terrorism met last month in New Delhi last month had adopted the Delhi Declaration to counter the use of new and emerging technologies for terrorist purposes.

"While terrorism continues to remain a big threat, other security concerns that have emerged in the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored. The ongoing geo-political developments have brought the world's attention to the challenges of Energy and Food Security," he said.

The ADMM Plus is an annual Defence Ministers meeting of ten ASEAN countries and its eight dialogue partner countries, viz., India, USA, Russia, China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The year 2022 also marks the 30th Anniversary of India-ASEAN relations.