Critically discuss India's interest and geopolitical stance in the South China Sea. What constructive role can be played by India while protecting its own commercial and economic interests? Opine.
India is not party to the South China Sea dispute, still India (along with US) has been consistently reiterating the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and advocating peaceful means to resolve the maritime disputes as per international law / UNCLOS.
India remained a passive observer in South China Sea for many years. It wasfor the first time in 2004 when the Vajpayee Government officially classified South China Sea as our extended neighbourhood. In 2006, the ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) signed a contract with Petro-Vietnam to jointly explore petroleum resources in Phu Khanh Basin. In 2007, India’s Maritime Military Strategy defined South China Sea as an area of “strategic interest” to India. In 2011 also OVL signed few more deals to jointly explore oil and natural gas in these blocks.
Therefore, for all these activities to be carried on peacefully, peace and stability is utmost in the South China Sea region.
Also for the successful functioning of the Act East Policy, there is a need to resolve the South China Sea dispute in peaceful manner.
India’s engagement in the South China Sea, on one hand signifies it’s deep economic and security cooperation with ASEAN countries, on the other hand it shows India’s concern that the escalation of the maritime disputes in South China Sea may have larger implications in international world order.