Amidst an international wave of criticism directed at a Chinese coast guard vessel that deployed a water cannon against a Philippine boat within the South China Sea, India issued a call on Friday for the peaceful resolution of disputes and the upholding of international law in the region.
In the context of the incident on August 5, where a Chinese coast guard ship employed a water cannon against a smaller Philippine vessel carrying supplies to Filipino marines stationed on Second Thomas Shoal (situated within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone), India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, reaffirmed India’s steadfast stance. This stance advocates the importance of adhering to international law in matters related to the South China Sea and endorsing an order grounded in rules.
“We have also emphasized the necessity for peaceful resolution of disputes, and I believe that is what we would emphasize once again,” Bagchi stated in response to inquiries about the incident involving the Philippine boat.
The incident prompted a robust reaction from the United States, a significant military ally of the Philippines. Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US State Department, highlighted that an armed assault on Philippine public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke the US’ mutual defense commitments under the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
While India previously recognized the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines in its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, it recently refined its position. A joint statement released on June 29 underscored the importance of honoring the 2016 arbitral award.
When queried about China’s reported opposition to the inclusion of the term “Vasudeva Kutumbhakam” in G20 documents, Bagchi refrained from commenting on these reports. However, he noted that the civilizational ethos encapsulated by the Sanskrit phrase finds expression through other means.
Bagchi mentioned that the working language of G20 meetings is English and that India’s G20 presidency theme is “one earth, one family, one future.” This thematic framework, rooted in the civilizational ethos of Vasudeva Kutumbhakam, resonates across various initiatives that India has introduced on the G20 agenda. This sentiment is also reflected in the G20 logo, featuring the words in both Sanskrit and English.
Addressing a different question regarding recent Chinese visas for Indian journalists, Bagchi expressed India’s hope for facilitating Indian reporters’ stay and work in China.
Bagchi clarified, “I won’t get into individual cases of visas. We would hope that China ensures circumstances that allow our journalists to stay there and report. We have been in contact with the Chinese side on this issue.”
Earlier this year, China informed several Indian journalists based in Beijing that their visas would not be renewed or had been suspended. The visa of the last Indian journalist in Beijing was recently extended for a year.
China justified its actions as “counter-measures” in response to India’s perceived “unfair” treatment of Chinese journalists. There are currently no Chinese journalists stationed in New Delhi. All previously stationed Chinese journalists in India worked for state-run media outlets.