The battle on the seas for India may soon hot up. Reports of China positioning warplanes on the Woody Islands in the disputed Paracel islands in the South China sea has ensured that the tension is likely to be heightened in the next couple of months.
The South China Sea has emerged as a flashpoint in the past few years with China asserting its territorial rights in the areas.
“The current situation in South China Sea is worsening due to the dangerous activities of China,” said the ambassador of Vietnam to India Ton Sinh Thanh at a workshop organised by the M.L Sondhi Institute for Asia Pacific Affairs along with the National Maritime Foundation and the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.
This would have “serious implications for security and development... in the Indo-Pacific region including India,” he asserted.
“China has also built big airstrips on three artificial islands there. Early this year, China began conducting flights to the airstrip it had illegally built at Fiery Cross Reef of Spratly Archipelago. And most recently, China has built a helicopter base on Duncan island and deployed HQ-9 long-range surface-to-surface air missiles on Woody Islands of Vietnam’s Paracel archipelago. Contrary to what the Chinese leaders have promised to the world community, this is a very serious step taken... to militarize the South China Sea,’’ Ton Sinh Thanh said.
The workshop aimed to bring together scholars, diplomats and policy makers on a single platform to understand the implications of China flexing its muscles in the area.
For India, the emerging situation in the area needs to be watched carefully, asserted various panelists.
The Indian position was spelt out by the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj at the Delhi Dialogue VIII. She said the oceans and the seas including the South China Sea are the pathways to prosperity and security. The area is a vital economic corridor with an estimated 6 trillion dollars of trade passing through these waters.
“China’s position has gone through various transformations,’’ said Professor Srikanth Kondapallai from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“China made it a core interest along with Tibet and Taiwan and then in 2009 it started engaging US vessels.”
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal gave the inaugural address for the workshop.