Published : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016 10:53 AM
South China Sea Verdict And Implications For India
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Read General Awareness Topic : South China Sea Verdict And Implications For India
In a landmark verdict recently, which is bound to produce strong geopolitical implications, The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claims to historical rights in the South China Sea. The ruling came in response to complaints made by The Philippines after the seizure of Scarborough Shoal by China in 2012. The five-judge international panel unanimously debunked Beijing’s “nine-dash line“ theory, which delineates the country’s claim to about 85 per cent of the South China Sea. The tribunal also said that none of the land features in the Spratlys archipelago, located in the centre of the South China Sea, could be considered as islands. This effectively curtails Beijing’s 200-mile “exclusive economic zone” claim.
China, as expected, has rejected the ruling and insisted its sovereignty over the South China Sea. China has long refused to recognize the tribunal and has repeatedly said that it will ignore its decision. The tribunal’s decision is binding and cannot be challenged. Beijing’s claims are fiercely contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. The first formal legal repudiation of Chinese claims in the South China Sea will strengthen the case of these South East Asian countries who are facing territorial land grab and bullied by China. With the verdict against China, it is interesting to see how Beijing will interact with its South East Asian neighbours and other major stakeholders such as the United States, Japan, Australia, and India.
There are multiple rivalries in the South China Sea, but largely these can be divided into two broad categories - first, between China and its Southeast Asian neighbours, and second, between China and the United States. The first category of dispute primarily pertains to contesting territorial claims, fishing rights and resource extraction especially offshore oil and gas fields. The second rivalry between China and the U.S. mainly pertains to the geopolitics of sea control. The U.S., with its omnipresence across blue waters in the world, has policed the critical maritime sea routes in the South China Sea. A Chinese control and assertion of its power in the region will challenge the U.S. supremacy in the western Pacific. Moreover, a dominant presence in the South China Sea will give Beijing a platform to exert greater influence over the foreign policies of its neighbours and consequently, the terms of trade and economy in east Asia.
The verdict could set off a new phase of volatility in the South China Sea with Southeast Asian countries strategically aligning with the U.S. against China. The U.S., which had reduced its presence in the region after the end of the Cold War, is reportedly beefing up its security presence and deploying more troops and expanding its bases. It opened five new bases in the Philippines. With the U.S. and countries in the region treating the South China Sea as international waters and pushing the verdict of the tribunal could heighten tensions with China, which, in turn, will have a major bearing on trade.
Although New Delhi is not directly involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but a volatile security environment will adversely affect our vital commercial and strategic stakes. It was not surprising, therefore, that New Delhi urged all parties involved to use peaceful means to settle disputes and respect international conventions. Many of our commercial interests are directly pitted against Chinese. India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s overseas arm has entered in an agreement with Vietnam to search for hydrocarbons in the South China Sea, which has been vehemently opposed by Beijing. The need for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is critical for India’s trade ties with other countries in the region as well as with Japan and South Korea.
India also needs to keep a close watch on Chinese posture in the dispute as it may give an idea as to what strategy Beijing may adopt in its territorial dispute with us. In the last two to three years, India-China ties on the resolution of border issue have not made much progress. The reports of Chinese incursion into the Indian side of the border in Ladakh and parts of Arunachal raised suspicions. India will have to further raise its strategic profile and presence in the region. Compared to China, India has been able to resolve its maritime dispute with Bangladesh through international arbitration and peacefully.
Many Southeast Asian countries and the U.S. already view India as a counterweight to China and will expect New Delhi to take a greater role. The government has recognised it and already expanding India’s strategic presence through greater cooperation with Vietnam. India recently agreed to sell BrahMos missile to Vietnam.
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