Declaring the inviolable right of all countries to freedoms of overflights and navigation on high seas, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar has said that seas should not be turned into areas of conflict.
"Secure and open sea lanes are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development," he said on Thursday at the UN Oceans Conference. "India reiterates the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded lawful commerce."
"We cannot allow our seas to turn into zones of contention," he added, emphasising that all maritime disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Even though he did not name any country, the remarks appeared to be directed at China, which uses strong-arm tactics against Vietnam, the Philippines and other in their disputes in the South China Sea, a crucial maritime corridor for India.
Turning to the Indian Ocean, Akbar said it could become "the ocean of the 21st century, a free and secure pathway for trade and exchange of intellect, discourse, cuisine and culture that helps fashion a truly international harmony".
"We believe that the Indian Ocean has been perhaps the most powerful force for good in the geo-economics of world history," he added.
He said that India is working with its maritime neighbours to expand cooperation on Blue Economy and maritime security and spoke of the first Maritime India Summit partnered with South Korea that was held in 2016 with more than 40 countries participating.