India and ASEAN countries today agreed to establish a mechanism for greater cooperation in the maritime domain, a move which comes in the wake of growing concerns in the region over China's rising military posturing in the South China Sea.
The consensus on setting up of a mechanism for deeper maritime cooperation was reached during a retreat session hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the ten ASEAN leaders.
"The leaders did agree to establish a mechanism for greater cooperation in the maritime domain sector," Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Preeti Saran said addressing the media.
Saran was asked about deliberations Modi and ASEAN leaders had during the retreat session. She said the leaders discussed issues of greater maritime cooperation and addressed both traditional and non-traditional challenges that "all of us face collectively".
Leaders from 10 ASEAN countries later attended the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit during which a host of issues including ways to further ramp up ASEAN's ties with India were discussed.
The move to set up a mechanism for greater cooperation in the maritime domain assumes significance as a number of ASEAN countries have territorial disputes with China in the resource-rich South China Sea.
It also comes months after India, the US, Australia and Japan set the ball rolling to give shape to the much talked about quadrilateral coalition, seen as an effort to contain China's expansionist behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region India has been pressing for freedom of navigation and over flight in the critical sea lanes and seeking resolution of the dispute as per international law.