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‘Some nations are attempting to gain more control over Indo-Pacific region’: Navy chief

Admiral Karambir Singh, the head of the Indian Navy, said on Wednesday that some countries were using a “land-centric territorial mindset” in the Indo-Pacific region to gain greater dominance and control, a veiled reference to China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, where it has long-standing sovereignty disputes with several countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

Singh said the reinterpretation of accepted conventions was turning “the global commons into contested seas” in his speech at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue 2021.

As previously reported, India is keeping a close eye on Chinese moves in the South China Sea and is taking steps to ensure that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) does not push its way into the Indian Ocean, where combat-ready Indian warships are monitoring for unusual activity around the clock.

“As the basic precepts of a maritime Indo-Pacific are challenged, competition in the Indo-Pacific is becoming more diverse, involving levers of diplomacy, commerce, ideology, values, science and technology; apart from the military,” the navy chief said.

He said daily competition for “influence, leverage, and geostrategic space” was becoming more visible in the Indo-Pacific, which is home to 61 percent of the world’s population, generates 62 percent of global GDP, and is home to 63 percent of the world’s island nations.

Nearly half of all global trade passes through the Indo-Pacific, according to Singh, and most countries within and outside the region have a vested interest in keeping it open to trade. “Which is why concepts like like-minded partners, free and open seas have gained traction in tandem with the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific,” he added.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, in his keynote address at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue 2021, defence minister Rajnath Singh said, “India is committed to respecting the rights of all nations as laid out in UNCLOS.” We are fully committed to safeguarding our country’s legitimate rights and interests in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.”

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