South China Sea Dispute Intransigent China vs India’s Sagacious Diplomacy
South China Sea Dispute Intransigent Since the armed conflict of 1974 over the ownership of Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea, the dispute has remained unresolved amongst the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and adamant China so far. In the series of skirmishes, China is still in an uncompromising position, going totally against the peaceful settlement of the dispute. All the claimants have different assertions due to which they are not able to come to any eventual decision through arbitrament or any other means. Based on its historical records, China claims to be the owner of the largest region and to corroborate the same it submits its “nine-dash line” map which was published by the Chinese Ministry of the Interior in 1947.
It becomes a matter of great concern when the question arises about the ultimate ownership of the disputed waters. Owing to the negligible physical value of islands it cannot be ignored that the disputed region is full of benefits. Over a long period of time, this dispute has become a concern for more than the claimant countries. China is being disobedient to the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea), 1994 which not only deals with the Navigational rights, territorial sea limits, economic jurisdiction and other maritime realms but also codifies pre-existing international customs. And breaching the same would definitely amount to international transgression.
As far as India is concerned, active participation of it was seen in the last few years. It must be noted that India has friendly relations with all of the ten South-East Asian countries and it has got enough diplomatic as well as military power to counter China and establish strong relations with rest of the world by promoting a peaceful measurement of dispute settlement. The major reason behind India’s participation is safeguarding its economic opportunities and trade. Almost half of India’s trade passes via Malacca Strait which comes in the disputed waters and consists of large reserves of oil and natural gas.
The recent act of forming artificial islands by piling sand atop reefs and establishing a military base, not only threatens the claimants but also violates their maritime rights influencing other countries’ development too. As India is being asked by the Vietnamese Government to help them out in oil exploration, it gives another reason to the former for becoming an obvious and expected stand against China. Today India not only aspires to be counted as one of the developed nations but seeks to become a permanent member of the Security Council. It not only requires a great economy and military power but a phenomenal diplomatic strength to which India is capable of to a high extent.
If India directly opposes China in the South China Sea dispute, it would certainly make the latter to affect the protection of the Indian Ocean, and thus, India is reluctant to such strategies. The very recent example of the same smart strategy is that India is not going to be a part of the joint patrol with Japan and Australia which was proposed by the United States. Recently Manoj Joshi, an eminent fellow at the Observer Research Foundation commented over the recent update that “India is worried that if we do joint patrols with the U.S, the Chinese could do it to us with Pakistan. That is really the worry — the US navy can operate globally, but India is not that powerful and that same thing could be turned on its head as far as we are concerned”.
Since it is an age-old dispute over ownership, power, jurisdiction and customs, which the claimants find undisputable, it becomes pertinent to figure out the real solution to it. No social, cultural, economical, military or political power is stronger and mightier than the power of truth and rights of the deserving. No doubt, domestic issues are much easier to get solved than global issues like the South China Sea Dispute, but as the United Nations Charter promote international peace and security by taking effective collective measures, it has become necessary to maintain the balance between development and peace, and look forward to resolving this issue with international co-operation by adopting peaceful methods of dispute settlement.