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South China Sea - Geopolitics


Southeast Asia's South China Sea is an arm of the western Pacific Ocean. It is located to the south of China, east and south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines, and north of Borneo.

It is linked to the East China Sea and Philippine Sea via the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait, respectively.

This sea is strategically significant due to its placement as the connecting link between the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Malacca).

According to the United Nations Conference on Commerce and Development (UNCTAD), one-third of world shipping passes through it, transporting billions of dollars of trade, making it an important geopolitical body of water.

UNCLOS Maritime Zones


Hundreds of miles away from the current Sino-Indian dispute is another perpetual theatre of war in which China is a permanent participant: the South China Sea, where disputes over competing claims frequently devolve into maritime muscle-flexing.

China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei all assert territorial sovereignty over these waters. Rival nations have contested territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tensions have steadily risen in recent years as a result of China's assertiveness.

China claims everything within the “nine-dash line,” stretching from Taiwan to Malaysia – a vaguely defined boundary purportedly based on old maps. In 2016, the international court in The Hague concluded that such a claim lacked legal merit. China challenged the judgement, and other nations have continued to lodge complaints against Chinese ships in their territorial seas. However, the 2016 judgement is legally binding, and China must be compelled to uphold it.

Contesting Claims Over Islands:

  • The Paracel Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

  • The Spratly Islands are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Philippines.

  • The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by Philippines, China and Taiwan.

Whoever controls these shipping lanes rules this “Asian Century.”~ Forbes

The Notorious Dragon

China has used the South China Sea as a bargaining chip since the beginning of its rise in the global order. Beijing operates from a position of strength in this region, with physical control over key islands. This gives Beijing a clear advantage and the ability to exercise strategic control over these waters, regardless of the rights and interests of other neighbouring nations.

What happens in the South China Sea is also of great concern to India. It must find a way to play its cards well in order to leverage these contested waters when the time comes to hold Beijing accountable for its blatant border violations and other misdeeds.

China has acted as a regional bully with repeated border clashes and incursions, posing an ongoing danger to our security. It’s the right time to bring this bully out in open in the global eyes given the fact that China’s reputation and prestige has taken a serious hit and is largely being labelled as an offender of territoriality, sovereignty and international law.

It’s very much India’s business

South China Sea is important for India , it involves strategic and geopolitical concerns, economic concerns in terms of trade and energy resources.

How the situation in the South China Sea develops will be crucial for our security and well-being. The South China Sea is not China's sea; rather, it is a global common.

Second, it has been an important sea-lane of communication since the very beginning, and passage has been unimpeded over the centuries.

Third, Indians have navigated these waters for well over 1,500 years; there is abundant historical and archaeological evidence of an uninterrupted Indian trading presence from Kedah in Malaysia to Quanzhou in China.

Fourth, nearly $200 billion in trade passes through the South China Sea, and thousands of Indian diaspora study, work, and invest in ASEAN, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Fifth, we share a stake in the peace and security of this region with other residents, and freedom of navigation and other normal activities with friendly nations are essential to our economic prosperity. Simply put, the South China Sea is our concern.

India’s position should be consistent with its Act East Policy and must not miss this opportunity to prove that it’s a strategic partner in true sense. Added we have our own national interest involved in the region.


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