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EU, India committed to free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific

An aerial view of French Navy Ship FS Tonnerre during IN – EUNAVFOR Joint Naval Exercise in the Gulf of Aden. A total of five warships from four navies took part in the exercise, including Indian Navy Ship Trikand. Photo: PTI (via MoD/India)

NEW DELHI (PTI): The European Union (EU) and India are committed to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity, sovereignty and freedom of navigation and overflight, the influential grouping said on Monday.

The assertion came after the EU and India carried out a joint naval drill in the Gulf of Aden on June 18-19 to improve operational interoperability and promote peace and security in the key waterways.

The EU also said the two sides are keen to enhance cooperation in the maritime security sphere in the Indo-Pacific region.

In January, the 27-nation EU and India launched a dialogue on maritime security and agreed to deepen two-way cooperation in this domain.

"The EU and India are committed to a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, democracy, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes," the bloc said in a statement.

It said both sides reaffirm the primacy of international law, including the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

An identical statement was also issued by India's Defence Ministry.

The EU also said the two sides are keen to enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China's increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers.

In April, the EU came out with a comprehensive strategy for the Indo-Pacific, listing its priorities and vision for the region that the bloc said represents the world's "economic and strategic centre of gravity".

The two-day naval exercise between the Indian Navy and the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Somalia saw the participation of a total of five warships.

The EUNAVFOR is the EU's counter-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.

"The exercise was based on the scenario of an anti-piracy operation. It included cross-deck helicopter landings, complex tactical evolutions at sea, live firing, a night-time joint patrol and a naval parade in the high seas off the coast of Somalia," the EU said.

The Indian Navy has been providing escort to the World Food Programme-chartered vessels, coordinated by the EUNAVFOR Somalia.

"The EU and India intend to strengthen their operational cooperation at sea, including joint naval exercises and port calls, and to protect the sea-lanes of communication. They also intend to boost maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific through mutual coordination and exchanges," the EU said.

"The EU and India reaffirm their interest to enhance their cooperation in the field of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region," it added.

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