Importance of South China Sea for India

The search of hydrocarbon in South China Sea is only one aspect of its importance for India. Another strategic importance is the objective of India to keep open the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) in the South China Sea. In recent times, India’s trade with East Asia has grown substantially and the waters of the South China Sea, which connect the Indian and Pacific Oceans, have acquired a new salience for India’s economic security. Any conflict in South China Sea that might constrict international shipping is of direct concern to India.

Amidst rising tension between Beijing and its maritime neighbours in recent years, India is taking greater interest in the affairs of the South China Sea.

India has repeatedly reaffirmed its interest in ensuring the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. India does not take a position on the maritime territorial disputes between China and other Southeast Asian countries.

Delhi wants a peaceful resolution of these disputes in accordance with the well-established norms of the international law of the sea.

The recent decision by ONGC Videsh to stop drilling in one of the offshore blocks it had acquired from Vietnam had set off much speculation in the Indian media about Delhi’s “retreat” from the South China Sea. However, it is not that India has relinquished all of its interests from the region.

Recently in June 2012, India had a joint exercise with Japan, which has sent a clear message that India’s interest in the waters of East Asia is enduring and its naval presence in the Western Pacific is here to stay.

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