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Greater need to maintain peace, stability in Indian maritime zone to boost trade: Rajnath Singh

NEW DELHI (PTI): There is a greater need to maintain peace and stability within the Indian maritime zone in order to boost trade and other economic activities, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday.

Singh, while addressing the second edition of the Naval Commanders' Conference, said India envisions the Indian Ocean region with universal values such as "rule-based freedom of navigation" and "free trade" in which the interests of all participating countries are protected.

There have been mounting global concerns over China's growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

Last month, the Indian Navy's anti-submarine warfare Corvette INS Kiltan had carried out a military exercise with Australian frigate Anzac in the South China Sea, a region that has been witnessing growing Chinese military expansionism.

The Defence Ministry in a statement on Monday said, "Speaking about the rapidly changing economic and political relations across the world, Singh said that these economic interests do cause some stress in the relations."

"Therefore, there is a greater need to maintain peace and stability within the Indian maritime zones in order to boost the trade and economic activities," he said, according to the Ministry's statement.

The India Navy's role in ensuring maintenance of peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region is going to increase manifold in the times to come, Singh said.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims.

According to the Defence Ministry, Singh stated that India supports consensus-based principles and a peaceful, open, rule-based and stable world order as a responsible maritime stakeholder.

He said that only those countries whose navies are strong have been successful in gaining dominance across the world and "I am happy to say that our Navy is playing an important role in our maritime and national security".

The statement said that Singh expressed happiness that in the last five financial years, more than two-thirds of the Navy's modernisation budget has been spent on indigenous procurement.

It is a matter of great pride to know that out of 41 ships and submarines ordered by the Indian Navy, 39 are from Indian shipyards. This is a testament to the Navy's commitment to 'Aatma Nirbhar Bharat', he said.

The three-day long conference, which began on Monday, focused on addressing the contemporary security paradigms while seeking ways to enhance the capabilities of the Indian Navy, the Ministry stated.

Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General M M Naravane and Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari also interacted with the naval commanders during the conference to address convergence of the three Services.

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