Expert sees India-US interest in Indian Ocean

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Chennai: India and US share common interest in the Indian Ocean and the two countries can co-operate directly, Dr Peter Dutton, Director of China Maritime Institute, US Naval War College said on Wednesday. Joining a discussion through video conferencing from Washington, he said the two countries have common interests politically and economically and could directly co-operate, unlike the scenario in the South China Sea. He said China’s naval activities in the Indian ocean is increasing and the two countries (India and US) have a lot to co-operate since instability at sea could affect the country’s security.

Speaking on the discussion organised by the US Consulate General Chennai on the topic “Convergence of US-India interests in the Pacific especially South China Seas and concept of freedom of navigation and the rule of law, he ruled out China escalating its activities in the South China sea after the Hague Tribunal verdict rejecting Beijing’s claims on the sea. When asked if economic sanctions should be imposed on China in the long run, if it failed to abide the verdict of the five-member panel from the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague, he said “This is a possibility in the long run. But, we have to be careful. Though, international law needs protection in all seriousness, I don’t think we should be quick. We have to wait and watch. We have to prepared (to impose sanctions) but reluctant”.

“If China is compared to a wounded tiger, we should treat it like a veterinarian not like a cage keeper. We should not make it insecure and aggressive,” Peter Dutton added.

Explaining the impact of the verdict, he said the freedom of navigation had been protected and asserted that the verdict of the tribunal is ‘binding and final’ and  parties must abide by it.

He also rejected China’s claims of historic right over the South China sea and said UN laws are superior to previous historic claims. Any piece of land amid sea which do not have permanent population or support any economic activity could not be termed as an island, he said.

The Hague verdict would have ‘sweeping effects’ around the world and other states should begin to reflect. The ruling is an also opportunity-for the China and Vietnam to negotiate, he said.

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