Model Question and Answers for APSC | The South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the present context. Comment.

The South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the present context. Comment.

Model Question and Answers for APSC | The South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the present context. Comment.

Ans: An area covering approximately 3.5 million square km, the South China Sea’s strategic importance has increased enormously as the global geopolitical and geo-economic centre of gravity has shifted towards Asia in the last decades; enframed by the ASEAN states, China and Taiwan, it hosts shipping routes, fish stock, hydrocarbon reserves, and rich biodiversity.

The South China Sea geopolitical significance in the present context:

  • Resources: From oil to fish to general trade access, the South China Sea is an important part of Southeast Asia's growing economic viability.
  • Fishing rights: Fishing rights are essential to the legitimacy and sovereignty of the region's It has been the main issue for the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
  • Navigation: Acceptance of the 9 dash line would be in conflict with the EEZs of several countries in the region, affecting not only their trade but also their sovereign rights.
  • Strategic location: Not only is militarization increasing, but this region is also being used for space exploration due to its strategic location, both economically and in terms of sovereignty, as nations such as China strive to become global powers.
  • Economic interests: The United States recently floated the idea of the Indo-pacific Economic framework, which includes many countries from the region. It means not only increasing free trade in the region but also undermining China's ability to implement it. A large amount of trade, particularly coal from Australia and Indonesia, also passes through this region.

 

Implications for India:

  • India has growing strategic interest due to its strong economic and political relations with Southeast Asian countries coupled with concerns about the safety of the sea lanes.
  • PM Modi made a significant speech at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue outlining a vision for free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region which was universally welcomed, including by China. It was further fleshed out as India-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative.
  • Besides participating in the ASEAN-led organisations, it is also an active partner in the Quadrilateral Dialogue (US, India, Japan and Australia) in pursuit of its larger Indo-Pacific vision.
  • India remains sensitive to the concerns of ASEAN and the littoral countries regarding regional strategic stability.

Prospects of regional disequilibrium negatively impact institutional capacity, at national and international levels, to tackle even more serious global challenges. The inadequate regional and global response to the pandemic needs to be taken as a cautionary tale for our common future.