India’s involvement in South China Sea is mainly due to economic reasons, to counter China and to maintain good relations with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Nations). View more at #Hindustan360.
China is the most aggressive among all the nations involved in the dispute which uses it’s military and political might to claim it’s sovereignty, almost over the entire region. Recently, China has started land reclamation in the region which can be used for stationing warships and military. This has deteriorated China’s relation with ASEAN.
India has friendly relations with ASEAN countries and hostile relation with China, citing this, the ASEAN nations have encouraged India to get involved in the South China Sea as they see India as a strong and influential nation that can counter China and can help in peaceful negotiations (especially Singapore and Vietnam)
India sees this as an opportunity to develop strong relations with 10 ASEAN nations and Japan (Japan is also very much concerned with the growing Chinese presence in the region as it may threaten their trade) . This will also help India to gain support from other countries in times when China creates a problem for India.
Trade & Energy
South China sea sees a heavy percentage of world trade. Around 50% of India’s trade passes through Malacca Strait (part of South China Sea). The South China Sea region is believed to have vast reserves of oil and natural gas.The presence of China’s military threatens trade and energy exploration for other countries.
This provides economic opportunities to India as countries like Vietnam have asked India to help them out in oil exploration. China has already warned India when ONGC and PetroVietnam signed a MoU(Memorandum Of Understanding). Moreover, the increasing Chinese presence in the region has created a threat for Indian and Japanese trade.
Therefore, India has to be involved in South China Sea to safeguard it’s economic opportunities and trade.
From Strategic point of view, India might be interested in developing military and air base in South China Sea (as suggested by Defense Minister George Fernandes) to counter China from different directions because of the increasing Chinese presence in Indian Ocean which has become a huge matter of concern for the Indian Government. However, nothing can be said much in this regard as India hasn’t said or done anything officially in developing a military presence in South China Sea.
Time to end timidity of China
Continuing with the trend, Modi again emphasised the need to stabilise the South China Sea in the recently concluded 12th India-ASEAN Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit in Myanmar. At both forums Modi emphasised the need to follow international norms to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, a comment directed at China.
What is also of significance is India’s choice of platforms in making these comments. In the face of a weakening American alliance in Asia, Modi’s statement on the South China Sea with Obama signifies an increasing need for New Delhi to play a leadership role in regional security. Perhaps India is finally gathering the political will to play a greater role as a security provider in the region.
Similarly, the joint statement with Vietnam is a re-assurance to one of India’s closest friend in the Southeast Asia engaged in a sharp dispute with China. Modi also met with the leaders of the Philippines and Japan — two other nations in dispute with China in the East China and the South China seas — signalling a greater willingness to play an active role in regional security.
The biggest bone of contention is Tibet & Dalai Lama
This led to the first ever war between these two nations. China is very sensitive about the territorial sovereignty and having Dalai Lama run a shadow government in India has historically been a major irritator for them.
Following Tibet are two border disputes – one in a region called Aksai Chin and another in a region called Arunachal Pradesh. Both nations claim both regions although China controls the former and India the latter. In both these places the geography favors the current arrangement. With both nations nuclear armed, it is inconceivable for any solution other than formalizing the status quo. However, both nations have a fairly noisy nationalist brigade that doesn’t want to lose face by stating that reality. Thus, the border remains unresolved leading to frequent flare up of anger. Balaji Viswanathan’s answer to Why did China invade India in 1962?
The third one and the one rapidly becoming important is the domination of Indian Ocean through a Chinese strategy termed the String of Pearls. Here is a map from that Wiki page. The stars in red circles are China’s plans for naval bases, stars in blue circles are American bases and Indian flags are Indian bases. Red circles surrounding India’s naval bases are feared by India as containment strategy. China’s Silky Indian Ocean Plans
View more at #Hindustan360.