IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

More sabre-rattling, more isolation

9th July, 2020 Editorial


- Growing militarisation of China in South China Sea and Isolation of China.

Importance of South China Sea:

- It has been a transit point for trade since early medieval times.

- It contains abundantly rich fisheries and is a repository of mineral deposits and hydrocarbon reserves.

Philippines and China:

- The Philippines invoked the dispute settlement mechanism of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2013 to test the legality of China’s ‘nine-dash line’ regarding the disputed Spratlys.

PCA Award:

- PCA declared that the line had “no legal basis.” China dismissed the judgment as “null and void.”

- It held that none of the features of the Spratlys qualified them as islands.

- There was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights and to the resources within the ‘nine-dash line’.

- The award implied that China violated the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

- It noted that China had aggravated the situation by undertaking land reclamation and construction.

- It had harmed the environment and violated its obligation to preserve the ecosystem.

Definition of Islands:

- The UNCLOS provides that islands must sustain habitation and the capacity for non-extractive economic activity.

- Reefs and shoals that are unable to do so are considered low-tide elevations.

Aftermath of Decisions:

-  The Philippines did not press for enforcement of the award and acquiesced in the status quo.

- Not one country demanded from China to work on a Code of Conduct with countries of the ASEAN.

Chinese actions in South China Sea:

- Increased patrolling and live-fire exercising by Chinese naval vessels;

- Ramming and sinking of fishing vessels of other claimant countries;

- Renaming of SCS features;

- Building of runways, bunkers, and habitation for possible long-term stationing of personnel on the atolls claimed by China.

- Chinese exploration and drilling vessels compete aggressively with those of other littoral countries in the disputed waters.

- Petronas has been prospecting for oil in the Malaysian EEZ.

Discontent in ASEAN:

- While avoiding military confrontation with China, they are seeking political insurance,

- Strengthening their navies and deepening their military relationships with the United States.

- Indonesia protested to China about Chinese vessels trespassing into its waters close to the Nantua islands, towards the south of the SCS.

- The Philippines protested to China earlier this year about violations of Filipino sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea.

- Philippines denied exploration by the Chinese firm in its exclusive economic zone.

- Russia and Vietnam are strengthening their military tie-ups.

Preparation by ASEAN countries:

- Vietnam has added six Kilo-class, Russian-origin submarines to its navy.

- France, Germany and the Netherlands, respectively, have supplied Formidable-class stealth ships to Singapore, patrol boats to Brunei Darussalam, and corvettes to Indonesia.

- Japan is partially funding the up gradation of the Indonesian coast guard.

- Indonesia and the Philippines are in early stages of exploring procurement of the BrahMos missile from India.

Options for India:

- Foreign and security policy in its larger neighbourhood covers the entire expanse of the Asia-Pacific and extends to the Persian Gulf and West Asia.

- The SCS carries merchandise to and from India. It follows that India has a stake in the SCS, just as China has in the Indian Ocean.

- India must continue to actively pursue its defence diplomacy outreach in the Indo-Pacific region.

- Increase military training and conduct exercises and exchanges at a higher level of complexity,

- Extend Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief activities.

- Share patrolling of the Malacca Strait with the littoral countries.

- The Comprehensive Strategic Partnerships that India has concluded with Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the U.S., and Vietnam could be extended to Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore.

- Strengthen the military capacity of the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command.

- Andaman and Nicobar has strategic relevance and they should not be ignored.


- China might have overreached by showing its aggressive hand prematurely.

- All countries from US, Russia, Japan to littoral countries in South China Sea are riled up against China.

- This does China little credit and points to its growing isolation.

About Permanent court of Arbitration:

- The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization located at The Hague in the Netherlands.

- The PCA is not a court in the traditional sense but provides services of arbitral tribunal to resolve disputes that arise out of international agreements between member states, international organizations or private parties.

- The cases span a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries, sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.

- The organization is not a United Nations agency, but the PCA is an official United Nations Observer.

- The PCA is the oldest institution for international dispute resolutions.

- It was established in 1899 by the first Hague Peace Conference under Articles 20 to 29 of the 1899 Hague Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.


- The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is an international agreement that was signed on 10th December 1982.

- UNCLOS also is known as the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea Treaty defines the rights and responsibilities of the nation towards the use of the world’s oceans.

Institutions under UNCLOS:

- International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS): Established by the UNCLOS, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body that adjudicates disputes arising out of the convention.

- International Seabed Authority: It was formed in 1994 under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982) for regulating the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters.

- Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS): CLCS is responsible for facilitating the implementation of UNCLOS with respect to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

Nine Dash line:

- The nine-dash line—at various times also referred to as the ten-dash line and the eleven-dash line—refers to the undefined, vaguely located, demarcation line used by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), for their claims of the major part of the South China Sea.

- The contested area in the South China Sea includes the Parcel Islands, [a] the Spratly Islands, and various other areas including the Pratas Islands, the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal.


- The map of the nine-dash line is based on a map originally issued by a department of the Republic of China that showed 11 lines forming a U-shape in the South China Sea.

-  In 1948, the ROC government declared its sovereignty and the right to maritime resources over the islands and reefs within the lines.

- When the PRC was established, it recognized that line.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/more-sabre-rattling-more-isolation/article32017468.ece