With an eye on China and the disputes in the South China Sea, India and the US today called for freedom of navigation and resolving of territorial and maritime disputes peacefully in accordance with international law. “In the Indo-Pacific region, in order to maintain peace, stability and prosperity in the region, this is also another objective of our strategic cooperation,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters at the Rose Garden of the White House after his maiden meeting with President Donald Trump. Later, a India-US joint statement on the meeting said as responsible stewards in the Indo-Pacific region, Trump and Modi agreed that a close partnership between the United States and India is central to peace and stability in the region. “Recognising the significant progress achieved in these endeavours, the leaders agreed to take further measures to strengthen their partnership,” the joint statement said. In accordance with the tenets outlined in the UN Charter, they committed to a set of common principles for the region, according to which sovereignty and international law are respected and every country can prosper, the statement said. To this end, Trump and Modi reiterated the importance of respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region, it said.
The statement comes amid China being engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Beijing has built up and militarised many of the islands and reefs it controls in the region. China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims. Modi and Trump called upon all nations to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law. They also called for support in bolstering regional economic connectivity through the transparent development of infrastructure and the use of responsible debt financing practices, while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment. Modi and Trump urged other nations in the region to adhere to these principles, the statement said.
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They strongly condemned continued provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), emphasising that its destabilising pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes poses a grave threat to regional security and global peace. The two leaders called on North Korea to strictly abide by its international obligations and commitments.
Modi and Trump pledged to work together to counter the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction programmes, including by holding accountable all parties that support these programmes. Trump thanked India for joining the US in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime. “The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems, and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly,” he said.
“Working together, I truly believe our two countries can set an example for many other nations, make great strides in defeating common threats, and make great progress in unleashing amazing prosperity and growth,” Trump said.