COLOMBO: Colombo, October 10: India, China and the US aired discordant views on maritime security at the two-day Galle Naval Dialogue 2017 held here on Monday and Tuesday, with each looking at the issue from its own interest.

India stressed the need for countries to safeguard national sovereignties while looking for maritime security. This is primarily because India is concerned about some neighboring countries like Sri Lanka yielding control over ports to China in a bid to counterbalance Indian influence or simply to become a regional sea hub.

China, which is pushing its String of Pearls series of ports across the globe as part of its U$$ 1 trillion One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, put out the theory that the ultimate guarantor maritime security is all round economic development with benefits being shared equitably.

The US, for which China’s unilateral and non-transparent actions in the South China Sea is a bee in the bonnet, strongly argued for respecting established provisions of international law; having mutual consultations on the basis of sovereign equality and transparency.

Expressing India’s concerns regarding maritime security, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy, Vice Adm.Karambir Singh, said that international cooperation for ensuring maritime security should not be at the cost of national sovereignty.

“Nations should strive for self-governance and self sufficiency and not go for quick fix solutions which could compromise their independence,” Adm.Singh said.

“Looking for quick fix solutions may lead to situations in which the strategic autonomy of a nation becomes dependent on external crutches. We should have a long term perspective so that the freedom to govern our destinies is retained within us,” he said.

Singh called for a “genuine spirit of equality and respect for each other’s sovereignty,” in approaching international maritime security issues. India believes in “non-invasive” cooperation with other countries, which entails ensuring “local ownership,” he added.

Singh’s stress on a national structure as the first and essential step is noteworthy given India’s feeling that smaller and weaker countries in the Indian Ocean region do not explore and exploit their own national potential first before seeking foreign cooperation and collaboration.

The Chinese delegate Rear Admiral Cui Yuzhong, Deputy Commander of the PLA Navy East Sea Fleet, said that the best guarantor of maritime security is rapid economic development on a mutually agreed basis.

“I believe only through development can we eliminate maritime security threats,” said the Chinese delegate,

“We hope to build an all-dimensional, multi-leveled and wide-ranging blue partnership to achieve mutual development through policy communication, facilities connection, smooth trade, financing, and shared morale,” Adm. Cui said,

As an illustration he cited the 21st.Century Maritime Silk Road and the allied economic development projects in the hinterland as an example of development ensuring well being and in the security too.

Propounding the theory that insecurity stems from unequal and distorted economic development, the Chinese delegate said that the definition of maritime security has to be changed to found it on economic development.

What he meant was that the more widespread and equitable economic development is ,the greater the security in the region.

“We advocate a new concept of maritime security. The core of this concept is common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” Cui said.

Answering the persistent criticism that China is elbowing its way into the oceans of the world disregarding existing norms, Cui said that China solves disputes through peaceful consultation.

“The Chinese government adheres consistently to solving maritime disputes through peaceful consultation, and the Chinese people are deeply convinced that only a peaceful maritime order can facilitate the global prosperity and development,” the Admiral said.

Without naming China, the US delegate, Adm.Scott W.Swift, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, said that there should be no scope for actions based on the dictum “might is right” in matters of maritime security.

Adm. Swift asserted that the US believes in cooperation and respect for the equality of all nations and not coercion ,suggesting that China has been acting unilaterally disregarding the interests or concerns of other stakeholders in the seas.

Swift called for “inclusive dialogues where the size and strength of the participating countries would not matter.”

Notwithstanding the divisive issues, the gathered powers agreed on the need to ensure maritime security by increasing Maritime Domain Awareness; gathering information; sharing actionable intelligence; ensuring multinational naval interoperability through regular joint exercises; and making national and international laws to implement maritime security.