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India for ‘Unhindered’ Freedom of Navigation in International Waters

Jun. 11 – Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony reaffirmed on Friday India’s belief in ‘unhindered’ freedom of navigation in international waters. He further stated that maritime disputes between nations should be settled through bilateral negotiation and discussion, and without any third-party interference.

“India strongly believes in international waters and there should be unhindered freedom of navigation for all the countries,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of international law, Antony commented that “the freedom [for navigation in international waters] must be as per the expected procedure and international laws.”

On settlement of disputes between countries, he clarified that “whenever any dispute arises between countries, we believe it should be settled through negotiations and discussions among the parties themselves, not by any third-party intervention. That is our approach.”

This statement may be disheartening for the United States, who is relying on India to act as a “lynchpin” as its military rebalances towards the Asia Pacific. It is yet to be seen whether or not the renewed U.S. presence in the region will become a force for peace, or whether it will simply heighten tensions.

With India dismissing third-party interference in maritime disputes, it may reduce the ability of the United States to act as a regional mediator. With U.S. partners, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, currently in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, this recent announcement from India may further act as an obstacle for the United States.

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