India and China have agreed to strengthen maritime cooperation at a time when their interests are increasingly overlapping in the Indo-Pacific region, following their only second ever maritime dialogue in Beijing on Friday.
The dialogue, which was initiated in February 2016, is the only platform for both sides to focus exclusively on maritime issues, which have grown as an increasingly important factor in the relationship. China’s interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) have expanded rapidly, with Beijing opening a military base in Djibouti near the Gulf of Aden as well as launching a Maritime Silk Road plan under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
India, for its part, has become more vocal in stressing the need to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and has strengthened maritime cooperation with Indonesia, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations. India has also deepened cooperation with the US, Japan and Australia in the region, including on maritime issues.
Friday’s dialogue in Beijing was chaired by Pankaj Sharma, Joint Secretary (Disarmament and International Security Affairs) in the Ministry of External Affairs and Wu Jianghao, Director General at the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A statement said, “the two sides exchanged views on various topics of mutual interest, including perspectives on maritime security and cooperation, blue economy, and further strengthening of practical cooperation.”
“The Indian side also elaborated on India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region as articulated in Prime Minister Modi’s keynote address at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore,” it added.
Both sides, it said, “underlined the importance of this dialogue as an important mechanism between the two countries for consultations on maritime issues.”
“They emphasised the need to further strengthen maritime cooperation as an important area of India-China bilateral relations, and as a platform to strengthen political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries,” the statement said.