India and the UK today called for a secure, free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific, amidst China flexing its military muscles in the strategically vital region. The two countries, in a joint statement, said they share a global outlook and commitment to a rules-based international system that strongly opposes unilateral actions that seek to undermine that system through force or coercion. The joint statement was issued after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May held “fruitful discussions” here on multiple aspects of the India-UK relations. “A secure, free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific is in the interests of India, the UK and the international community,” it said.
The statement came as China is building new vessels at a rapid pace to bolster its navy. Beijing claims virtually the entire resource-rich South China Sea, through which an estimated USD 5 trillion in global trade passes annually. China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the area. China has also constructed airstrips and other installations on artificial islands to enlarge its military footprint in the region.
China has maritime disputes with Japan in the East China Sea. The India-UK joint statement said the two countries will also work together to tackle threats such as piracy, protect freedom of navigation and open access, and improve maritime domain awareness in the region. “As thriving democracies, we share a desire to work closely together and with all who share our objective to support a rules-based international order that upholds agreed international norms, global peace and stability,” it said. “Together the UK and India are a force for good in an uncertain world. We are sharing our experience and knowledge to tackle global challenges,” the statement added.