Terrorism remains foremost challenge in Indo-Pacific region: Parrikar

Singapore, June 5 (IANS) Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Saturday that terrorism remains the formost challenge in the Indo-Pacific region and there was need to “delegitimise” it as an instrument of state policy.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue here, he, in a reference to the South China Sea, said that India firmly believed in freedom of navigation and overflights in accordance with international law.

“Terrorism remains the foremost challenge to our region. Networks of radicalism and terrorism as well as their support structures in the region and beyond continue to pose a threat to all peace-loving societies,” Parrikar said.

“We need to oppose terrorism resolutely everywhere, delegitimise it as an instrument of state policy and cooperate unreservedly to locate, thwart and destroy terrorist networks. The security frameworks in our region still do not give enough attention to terrorism. This must change,” he said.

The Defence Minister stressed the need to peacefully resolve the claims over South China sea.

“We have traditional links with the countries in the South China Sea. More than half our trade passes through its waters.

“While we do not take a position on territorial disputes, which should be resolved peacefully without the threat or use of force, we firmly uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, in particular the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

China’s expansive claims over South China Sea, contested and mirrored by the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have triggered concerns globally, with the US sending its naval warships in the disputed waters.

Parrikar also said that trends in the region suggests that countries in the Asia-Pacific are spending more on defence but there was no “definitive conclusion” about this presaging a “military competition”.

“If you look at recent figures, Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam, all appear to be spending more on military capabilities. A closer look suggests the picture is more complex.

“In some cases, there is a catching-up happening after years of neglect of capital expenditure in defence. In other cases, there are new challenges and new roles for the armed forces.

“I believe that we cannot reach a definitive conclusion that we are witnessing emerging military competition in the region based on figures of military expenditure,” he said.

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