Daily Editorial Analysis for 13th July 2023

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Why in News

  • The Foreign Ministers of India and the Philippines met at the fifth meeting of the Philippines-India Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation, in New Delhi, on June 29.

Conflict in the South China Sea

  • In 2013, China withdrew from the arbitration proceedings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that was initiated by Philippines. Despite China’s withdrawal the proceedings continued as per the guidelines of UNCLOS. The tribunal’s decision is “final and binding”.

Ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

  • PCA ruled in Philippines favour and denied Chinese assertion of having historical rights over South China sea. PCA also denied Chinese claims on the resources found inside the nine-dash line. PCA states that China has harmed the natural environment of the area through its developmental and land reclamation activities.
  • PCA also founded that China violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by –
    • Interfering with Philippines’ fishing and petroleum exploration.
    • Constructing artificial islands.
    • Failing to stop Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone”.
    • China reduced the traditional fishing rights of Filipino fishermen.
    • China physically obstructed Philippine vessels.
  • Finally, PCA determined that China had no legal basis for asserting historic rights to resources located within the sea.
  • Despite this, PCA did not rule that Chinese construction and military activities were unlawful but only highlighted that the dispute was due to fundamentally different interpretations of rights under UNCLOS.

Strengthening of India-Philippines Ties

  • Both the countries have long diplomatic history and are well established maritime powers in their respective regions. Both nations share common interest in safeguarding the trade international maritime trade routes, such as the South China Sea.
  • There is increased cooperation between the Coast Guards of the two countries.
  • Acquisition of naval assets by Manila under a concessional line of credit from Delhi.
  • New Delhi opened the resident defence attaché office in Manila
  • Further there is expansion of training and joint exercises on maritime security and disaster responses and commencing a maritime dialogue between both the nations.
  • The most important development was the agreement on regional and multilateral issues, particularly on maritime highways such as the South China Sea.

Way Forward

  • South China Sea is a crucial maritime gateway for commercial shipping between Pacific and Indian Oceans. Conflict in the South China Sea would be a challenge not only in maintaining regional but also global security.
  • The ASEAN nations need to develop deeper understanding and co-operation among themselves if Chinese aggression needs to be addressed.
  • Notwithstanding the binding award of PCA, China has still maintained the same stance. Countries in the region should come together and fully employ their diplomatic capital to bring China to the negotiation table.
  • One important suggestion to solve the deadlock, is ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ as the legal method did not bear desired results. Quiet Diplomacy refers to one state’s efforts to influence the behaviour of another state through discreet negotiations or actions. It could be employed by the ASEAN nations quite effectively.

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