UNCLOS accepted as legal framework for all activities in the Oceans by UNSC

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Updated: August 09, 2021 10:27 PM

Cooperation between countries, international organizations and bodies, regional organizations and established international legal instruments.

UNSCPrime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian PM to chair a meeting of the UNSC. (File Photo: ANI)

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has been accepted by the UN Security Council as the legal framework applicable to activities in the oceans, including countering illicit activities at sea. The The UNSC Presidential statement calling for primacy of international law was adopted at the first ever standalone discussion on “Maritime Security” in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Monday.

Held under the agenda item “Maintenance of International Peace & Security”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian PM to chair a meeting of the UNSC and there was an unprecedented participation from other countries.

Key Takeaways

This was a reaffirmation of the constructive role played by India in its innings at the UNSC.

As reported by Financial Express Online, at today’s open debate, India at the head of the table focused on all the critical aspects of maritime security in a holistic manner. This is India’s one of the signature events while it holds a one month presidency during August.

According to sources, in the past attempts were made by Vietnam (April 2021) and Equatorial Guinea (Feb 2019) for a full discussion. However they did not succeed.

 Once again SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and IPOI (Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative) was discussed in the UNSC. Most importantly India’s role as a “net security provider” in the Indian Ocean was reiterated.

Ahead of today’s debate, India had started consulting with the members of the UNSC in an effort to build consensus.

Who all participated?

This was the first UNSC Presidency Event this year to have garnered such an eminent participation.

There were a total of 4 Heads of State and Governments (Two Presidents and Two PMs, including India), and 10 Ministers including (7 Foreign Ministers) participated at the Indian initiative in UNSC.

This is the first time in the presidency of UNSC that such a lineup of leaders attended the discussion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has participated only twice earlier in the UNSC debates (September 2000 & September 2005. Today was the third time after nearly 16 years, a clear message about the importance Russian places on Maritime Security in the UNSC and the Indo-Russian Strategic Relationship.

The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken participated, though the US has a Cabinet rank US Permanent Representative posted in the UN. Experts think this is an important message especially today’s debate was India’s initiative.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who represented the President of the DRC, in his capacity as Chair of the African Union was invited to brief the Council.  PM Modi had sent a personal invite to the AU Chair for today’s debate.

Why was this important? Because it gave an opportunity to India to develop synergies with AU on the issue of Maritime Security and to ensure the interests of the African continent.

More about the Outcome Document ‘’Presidential Statement’’ (PRST)

The usual practice is that this has to be adopted unanimously. However today the process was not smooth as one of the P-5 held out till the very end. This was due to the language related to UNCLOS.  It was India’s diplomatic /negotiator’s victory that P-5 accepted the PRST as the language was found acceptable to all without dropping UNCLOS.

What was adopted today?

Primacy of international law – all agreed that UNCLOS is the legal framework which is applicable to activities in the oceans. This also includes countering illicit activities at sea.

Cooperation between countries, international organizations and bodies, regional organizations and established international legal instruments.

While ensuring freedom of navigation in accordance with applicable international laws promoting safe and secure shipping.

There should be focus on drugs and human trafficking through the maritime route.

To have enhanced cooperation for protecting critical infrastructure, and cross-border infrastructure.

Strengthening cooperation for maritime safety & security. This is for the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea and terrorist activities, and also all forms of transnational organized crimes in the maritime domain.

 International and regional cooperation which will help in countering threats to maritime safety and security.

The important role played by the individual countries as well as regional and sub-regional organizations in this matter.

All welcomed the bilateral or regional agreements or arrangements, mutual legal assistance. And also other forms of law enforcement cooperation against transnational organized crime at sea.

Focus on capacity building and sharing of best practices and information.

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