With respect to the South China sea, maritime territorial disputes and rising tension affirm the need for safeguarding maritime security to ensure freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region. In this context, discuss the bilateral issues between India and China.
India is a non-party in the dispute surrounding the South China Sea which involves China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines. However, India has a deep and abiding interest in the region for multiple reasons. Firstly, roughly half of India’s naval trade with other countries is carried out via the South China Sea, so the continued peacefulness and protection of the right to free passage in international waters, in accordance with international legal principles is of significance to India. Recently, India’s INS Airavat was reportedly contacted by China’s Navy while on South China Sea waters when returning from a Vietnamese port. The event just stopped short of escalating into an international incident. So, to India, its freedom of navigation is important. Secondly, India has stakes in the South China Sea which will be protected if the dispute was resolved. India has signed agreements with Vietnam to conduct oil exploration of blocks in the South China Sea. While Vietnam claims that the blocks are in Vietnamese waters, China has responded unfavourably and looked down upon the agreement between Vietnam and India.
Fallout from India’s deal with Vietnam included, the events are reflective of the larger issues between India and China. Increased cooperation and naval exercises in the Indian Ocean is a point of concern for China which looks unfavourably upon the partnership between Japan, Australia and India under the purview of USA.