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'India firmly supports Philippines': Jaishankar's swipe at China amid maritime disputes

NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday expressed support for the Philippines' sovereignty amid the Southeast Asian nation's maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea.
Jaishankar, who is currently in Manila on an official visit, said India firmly supports the Philippines in upholding its national sovereignty and wants to explore new areas of cooperation, including in defence and security.

“UNCLOS 1982 is particularly important in that regard as the Constitution of the seas. All parties must adhere to it in its entirety, both in letter and in spirit. I take this opportunity to firmly reiterate India's support to the Philippines for upholding its national sovereignty,” Jaishankar said in response to questions regarding the China-Philippines conflict in the South China Sea.
When asked about India's intentions to enhance defense collaboration with the Philippines amidst developments in the South China Sea, Jaishankar highlighted the need to assess such cooperation based on its own merits, independent of specific situations.

"It's natural today that two countries whose trust and comfort is growing so rapidly that we will look at various new areas of cooperation. And certainly defence and security is one of them," he said.
China claims most of the South China Sea as its own, while The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims over the maritime area.
Currently, China and the Philippines are embroiled in a tense dispute over the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. Both countries claim ownership of the shoal.

Meanwhile, China has asked India to respect its sovereignty claims over the disputed South China Sea, saying that no "third party" will be in a position to interfere in maritime disputes between the two countries.
"Maritime disputes are issues between countries concerned and any third party is not in a position to interfere," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said in response to a question.
“We urge the relevant side to face facts of the issues of the South China Sea, respect the sovereignty and maritime interests of China and the efforts made by the regional countries in upholding peace and