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Modi, Laos PM Hold Bilateral Talks, Discuss South China Sea Issue

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Vientiane: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday held bilateral talks with his Laotian counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith and discussed regional developments including the South China Sea issue.

The two sides shared the same perspective on South China Sea, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

In his address to the ASEAN-India Summit, Modi called sea lanes as “life lines of global trade” and said securing seas was a shared responsibility.

He added that India supports freedom of navigation based on United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The comments come amid China’s muscle flexing in the disputed South China Sea and “emerging regional challenges” as Beijing is involved in a raging dispute with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei over ownership of territory in the South China Sea (SCS), a busy waterway through which India’s 50 per cent trade passes.

China has also objected in the past to India’s Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) undertaking exploration at the invitation of Vietnam in the SCS, which is believed to be rich in undersea deposits of oil and gas.

India and the US have been calling for freedom of passage in the international waters, much to the discomfort to Beijing, whose claim over SCS was recently struck down by an international tribunal in favour of the Philippines.

Modi, who is here to attend the ASEAN-India and East Asia summits, held parleys with the Laos premier on the sidelines of the meetings.

Sisoulith said his country supported India as a permanent member of a reformed and expanded United Nations Security Council.

The two leaders agreed to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in a befitting manner.

Modi said he was especially happy to be in Vientiane at a time when India and Laos are celebrating the anniversary.

He said India and Laos shared ancient linkages going back more than 2,000 years.

The Laotian premier appreciated India’s consistent support to Laos, particularly in areas of human resources development, agriculture, irrigation and power.

Modi is scheduled to hold several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Summits during his two-day visit, including with US President Barack Obama, South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

In his talks with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe yesterday, India and Japan pledged to strengthen ties in the key areas of counter-terrorism, civil nuclear cooperation, trade and investment.

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