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'India supports freedom of navigation in international waters'

Defence Minister AK Antony accompanied by his Thai counterpart Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat inspect an Inter-Services Guard of Honour in Bangkok on Thursday. A PTI photo.

BANGKOK (PTI): Against the backdrop of growing Chinese assertion in the Asia-Pacific region, India on Thursday said it supports the "freedom of navigation" in international waters noting that any disputes or differences in the region must be resolved diplomatically.

During his one-day visit here, Defence Minister A K Antony also offered to cooperate with Thailand in the field of defence production.

"Our trade is dependent on the sea lanes. Hence, security of the sea lanes and freedom of navigation is critical to our economic and overall security. India supports the freedom of navigation in accordance with the principles of international law," he said in his talks with his Thai counterpart Air Chief Marshal Sukumpol Suwanatat.

Noting that peace and stability was in the interest of all countries in the region, Antony said, "We support resolution of differences and disputes through the process of dialogue and consensus between the parties to such disputes."

"All countries must exercise restraint and resolve issues diplomatically, according to the principles of international law," he said.

Antony's comments came amidst flexing of muscles by China in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

China has in the recent past used its naval ships and aircraft to intimidate neighbouring countries including Japan which are in dispute with Beijing over maritime rights.

China has also increased presence of its maritime forces, including submarines and warships, in the Indian Ocean Region.

Noting that ASEAN was central to any security architecture in the region, Antony said, "India is committed to efforts of ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus, ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit for promoting dialogue and consensus building among all countries of the region," he said.

Discussing regional security concerns, Antony said, "both our countries have large stakes in the maintenance of peace and stability in our immediate neighbourhood and in the wider Asia Pacific region.

Meanwhile, offering cooperation and collaboration in defence production, the Defence Minister said, "India has, over the years, developed a well established defence industry which can meet varying requirements of the Thai Armed Forces."

He also welcomed the visit of Thai defence delegations to various Indian military production facilities.

"Through conscious planning, hard work by our scientists and support by the government is resulting in the growth of a strong defence industrial base in the country," the Defence Minister said.

Antony is in the last leg of his three-nation tour to Australia, Singapore and Thailand. He has already visited the other two countries and held talks for enhancing defence and military cooperation with them.


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