China is a South Asian country and part of Indian Ocean region

A Chinese expert on  international relation,s Ruan Zongze, Executive Vice President of the China Institute of International Relations, has said that China is a South Asian country and is part of the Indian Ocean region.

Speaking at the Second Indian Ocean Conference held here on September 1, Ruan said China has a legitimate interest in ensuring peaceful commerce and development of the Indian Ocean Region.

When an Indian delegate asked how China can consider itself an Indian Ocean country when its waters do  not wash its shores, Ruan  said that China is not far away from the ocean.

“China has land borders with five of the South Asian countries (India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Pakistan)  and it is a 4,000 km border with them. Historically, it has had links with the Indian Ocean. There is a evidence of its trade with Sri Lanka in 1409.There have been cultural and religious links with the region.  Moreover, China is now a heavy user of the Indian Ocean. Seventy percent of China’s oil imports come from West Asia via the Indian Ocean,” Ruan said.

China shares with the countries of the Indian Ocean certain interests such as economic development through cooperation and investment, the Chinese scholar said even as he denied that China has any special interest in the region.

“China is interested in the peaceful development of the region and is keen that the Indian Ocean does not become a theater of a cold war,” he added.

Ruan was emphatic that it has been China’s principle to settle disputes peacefully and  ensure freedom of navigation.

On the South China Sea, Ruan said that the disputes have been only with countries which share a maritime border with China and it has been China’s policy to settle these issues amicably.

As early as 1988, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had proposed to settle disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam peacefully. Deng had suggested that disputes be shelved and joint oil exploration taken up instead. But sadly because of a change in government, the exploration was not taken up.

Ruan denied that China is not allowing Freedom of Navigation. If any country is denying freedom of navigation, it is the United States., he said  Two Destroyers of the US navy had interfered  with the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea by creating incidents.

On the charge that China has rejected arbitration as a method of settling disputes, Ruan said that  China accepted UNCLOS in 2006 but it did not accept arbitration because UNCLOS allows that, and other countries like the UK. Australia and France have also rejected arbitration.

Ruan Zongze believes that the world is large enough to accommodate both China and India and that a lot can be achieved if the two cooperate.(

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