Asia - Pacific

India backs Philippines amid sea tensions with China

New Delhi would look at 'areas of cooperation’ with the Philippines, including in defense and security, says top diplomat

Riyaz ul Khaliq  | 26.03.2024 - Update : 26.03.2024
India backs Philippines amid sea tensions with China ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference with India


India on Tuesday backed the Philippines in upholding its "sovereignty" as New Delhi emphasized the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or the UNCLOS.

“The progress and prosperity of this region is best served by staunch adherence to rules-based order (and) UNCLOS is particularly important as the constitution of seas,” Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar told a news conference streamed live from Manila.

New Delhi’s backing of Manila came as the Philippines and China are engaged in an intense tussle over the disputed maritime boundaries in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Jaishankar is on an official trip to the Philippines where he held talks with his Filipino counterpart Enrique Manalo, who called the 2016 arbitral award by the Hague-based tribunal on the disputed South China Sea “final and binding.”​​​​​​​

The maritime neighbors, China and the Philippines, have conflicting claims over the Second Thomas Shoal – also known as the Ayungin Shoal, Bai Co May, and Ren'ai Jiao – which is a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims vast maritime territory in the South China Sea under its so-called nine-dash line, which in 2016 The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration said has no legal basis under international law.

China says the ruling is not valid and has been in negotiations with ASEAN since 2002 for a code of conduct for the disputed sea.

The Chinese and Filipino vessels have collided twice, with the latest over the weekend, following which two sides made counter-diplomatic protests while Beijing said relations with Manila were at a “crossroads.”

Beijing tells ‘3rd party’ to stay away

About UNCLOS, Jaishankar said: "All parties must adhere to it in its entirety, both in letter, and in spirit."

“I take this opportunity to firmly reiterate India's support to the Philippines for upholding its national sovereignty,” said the Indian foreign minister, drawing a quick response from Beijing.

“Maritime disputes are issues between the parties involved, and any third party has no rights to interfere,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian told reporters in the Chinese capital.

“Relevant parties are urged to face the real situation of the South China Sea, respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” Lin added.

Beijing has also accused the US of interfering in the bilateral dispute between China and the Philippines, alleging that Washington is responsible for the tensions.

Manila and New Delhi are close allies of the US.

The Indian foreign minister also said New Delhi “would look at various new areas of cooperation” with the Philippines and “certainly defense and security is one of them.”

“As the world changes, it is essential that India and the Philippines cooperate more closely to shape the emerging world,” he added.

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