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In stern message to China, India backs primacy of international law

External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar, Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Minister Wang Yi at the 18th meeting of the Russia-India-China Foreign Ministers, in New Delhi on Friday. ANI

The point on respecting international law was included in the joint communique that was issued after the Russia-India-China meeting.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar emphasised on the need for all nations to “respect international law” during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russia-India-China (RIC) mechanism here on Friday, in what is being seen as a clear message to China. Sources told The Sunday Guardian that Dr Jaishankar flagged the “primacy of international law” with a view to sending a “meaningful and strong message” to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi in the meeting. He emphatically called for respect for international law “obviously with Beijing in mind”. The point on respecting international law was included in the joint communique that was issued after the meeting.
“The Ministers reiterated that a multi-polar and rebalanced world on sovereign equality of nations and respect for international and reflecting contemporary realities requires strengthening and reforming of the multilateral system,” said the joint communique. A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official told The Sunday Guardian that the 18th round of talks between RIC Foreign Ministers provided India with a significant opportunity to give this message to China, which flagrantly violates international laws and bends the law to suit its agenda of expansionism. To a question, MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said that no bilateral issues could figure during the virtual meeting as it was a different mechanism but important regional issues were discussed. However, Bagchi dropped enough hints that the Indian External Affairs Minister did give a message to China keeping in mind its expansionist agenda. In fact, the talks between RIC Foreign Ministers were held against the backdrop of an India-China standoff on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that has taken bilateral ties to an all-time low. Though Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi avoided any mention of the standoff, the former did not miss the chance to remind the latter of the need to respect international law in an obvious reference to Beijing’s “misdeeds” on land and in water. The Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific region where China is flexing muscles are the two areas where Delhi and Washington are keeping their focus on.
That China claims sovereignty on virtually all South China Sea (SCS) islands and their adjacent water is something that the world community cannot accept. In violation of international law, China continues to regulate military activity in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where it is allowed to carry out only economic activities.
A few years ago, a UN tribunal concluded China violated United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for operating within the Philippines’ EEZ, interfering with fishing and petroleum activity, constructing artificial features, and conducting law enforcement activity that led to near-collisions at sea. The Land Borders Law enacted by Beijing is another example of how an increasingly aggressive China is using domestic law to justify its agenda of expansionism, the diplomat says. Moreover, China’s Coast Guard Law does not go down well with countries like Japan, the United States, the Philippines and Vietnam. These countries say that the law clearly violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is aimed basically at expediting China’s maritime militarisation, say sources. This is how China goes on violating international laws on the pretext of implementing its domestic laws.
“That is where India and for that matter the entire global community need to counter China. The US should give fillip to its campaign to rein in China in the backdrop of all this,” an official said. All the forums and meetings should be used to at least send a message pertaining to what China is doing, he added. “This is what Jaishankar did during the RIC interaction when he stressed the need to respect international law,” a diplomat pointed out. UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS is the legal framework applicable to activities in oceans, including countering illicit activities at sea. While addressing the UNSC some time back, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also underlined the need to resolve the maritime disputes peacefully in accordance with international law. It was seen as PM Modi’s signal to China vis-à-vis its belligerence.