Need for common interpretation of maritime law: Top Navy officer

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) There is a need to promote and strengthen common understanding and practice of International Maritime Law and regional norms, Vice Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, said here on Wednesday.

Speaking on ‘Evolving politics of the Asia-Pacific’ at the second Raisina Dialogue here, Luthra said: “For multilateralism to succeed, there is a need to promote and strengthen common understanding and practice of international and regional norms.”

“To be sure, a common interpretation and practice of International Maritime Law may be an arduous and long-drawn process. But it is a process that must be embarked upon,” he added.

Luthra said that although most countries agree to the concept of freedom of navigation and International Maritime Law, but interpret it differently.

“There are divergent views on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Domestic maritime laws in some countries are not aligned with the UNCLOS,” the Vice Admiral noted.

While there is a broad convergence on issues related to freedom of navigation for trade and commerce, there are differing positions on transit, movement, manoeuvres and exercises by warships, in territorial waters and exclusive economic zone,” he added.

He said that apart from that, there are contesting sovereignty claims as also contesting claims for maritime zones.

“These challenges are complicated by reclamations of rocks and reefs around islands. Naval and air operations towards assertion of different interpretation do bring with them the risk of miscalculation and consequently, escalation,” he said.

He said that competition and rivalry in the region can be seen in the sea and the maritime domain is increasingly shaping the geopolitics of the region.

“This domain is also the arena where contesting rhetoric and fierce nationalism are manifesting. Different approaches to security are being put forward by key players,” Luthra added.