South China Sea

S China Sea dispute: India too cautious to offend anyone

vikas-swarup-india-couth-china-sea MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup | IANS

MEA chooses to couch its response to South China Sea dispute in diplomatic legalese

  • An International arbitration court on Wednesday found that China's claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea had no legal basis, dealing a stinging blow to its aggressive posturing in the disputed region.

A day after a state-run Chinese newspaper counted India among the nations that supported the country's claims in the South China Sea, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs chose to couch its response in diplomatic language and legalese.

“We are neither in favour nor against any country,” MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup rather tersely summed up India's stance on the issue.

“It is about the use of the global commons. It is not a matter or politics, it is a matter of law. We take a principled position as a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). As a state party, we believe that all parties should show utmost respect to the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal orders of the seas and oceans.’’

An International arbitration court on Wednesday found that China's claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea had no legal basis, dealing a stinging blow to its aggressive posturing in the disputed region.

The verdict came after Philippines dragged the Communist giant to The Hague, accusing it of asserting control over faraway waters of the South China Sea considered to be international.

The tribunal struck as invalid the nine-dash line that China has used to indicate its claims and ruled that it had no “historical claim’’ to the sea and the numerous tiny islands dotting it.

It also ruled that China had broken international law by endangering Philippines’ sovereignty and damaging the maritime environment (with its activities).

China has rejected the verdict on numerous grounds. It states that the UNCLOS had no jurisdiction over the dispute. It also said that Philippines had flouted an agreement with it to bilaterally resolve disputes by going to The Hague.

“China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea shall under no circumstance be affected by those awards. China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards,’’ stated a press communique released by the Chinese embassy.

The embassy also released a white paper on Thursday which speaks about the Chinese influence over this sea for 2,000 years, an influence which was curbed by colonisation. The paper stresses on China’s historical claim to the sea and its islands.

The South China Sea is globally a strategic area and with recent Chinese activity of dredging some islands and trying to establish air and military bases, there have caused concerns across countries, including Vietnam and Philippines and the US.

While India has no direct connection to this maritime region, free movement of trade on the sea and over air in the region does affect India. Moreover, growing Chinese influence is always a matter that concerns India.

Further, China and Pakistan together have been escalating activities beyond India’s western flank—the China Pakistan Economic Corridor could cause territorial issues with India. The South China Sea developments could strengthen or weaken Chinese moves on the West, depending on how matters fan out.

In response to China’s refusal to accept the award, MEA said, “The authority of the Annex VII tribunal and its award is recognised in Part XV of the UNCLOS itself.’’ Dejargonising this statement would mean that India recognises the verdict of the tribunal, thus the Chinese claim of India being on its side is negated.

The Chinese statement claims China “will continue to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations ….through negotiations and consultations on the basis of historical facts… to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.’’

The statement, however, makes it clear China will not have any third party intervention in the matter. Reports of China threatening unilateral action are already being parried.

Responding to them, Swarup said: “India supports freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. India believes that States should resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.

The Arbitration Tribunal expects that its member nations will honour and abide by its rulings. China is a member nation. However, there is no mechanism in the tribunal to enforce its rulings. And with China rejecting the verdict outright, the global attention is now on the vast waters of the eastern hemisphere and the numerous atolls, reefs and islands on it.

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Topics : #South China Sea | #MEA

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