To counter China’s increasing claims over the disputed South China Seas (SCS), India and Indonesia have vowed to bolster maritime ties.

Both nations have also decided to maintain a maritime legal order based on the principles of international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“Both leaders recognised the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight on the high seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law including the UNCLOS,” said a statement on India and Indonesia Maritime Cooperation.

The statement was issued after a bilateral meeting between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Monday.

In an unstated but clear reference to China, both leaders also asserted that India and Indonesia share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication.

Indonesia has been vociferously challenging Chinese aggression in some of the disputed islands located in the South China Sea. Indonesian warplanes have been showcasing their strength in close proximity to a region in the SCS, which is claimed by China.

Although India has not yet taken any sides officially on the matter, it has made it amply clear that it is against such aggression that adversely impacts trade and commerce over the SCS.

According to the joint statement, both sides emphasised the importance of further consolidating the security and defence cooperation.

As a result, both leaders directed their respective Defence Ministers to secure an early convening of a Defence Ministers’ Dialogue and the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) Meeting to review and upgrade the existing ‘Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Fields of Defence’ to a substantive bilateral Defence Cooperation Agreement.

Trade ministers’ forum

For the first time ever, both countries decided to set up a Biennial Trade Ministers’ Forum in an effort to “remove impediments to trade and investment,” the joint statement said.

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