South China Sea Verdict: Global Implications



A plethora of articles covering South China Sea Verdict like Washington Post article – What the South China Sea Ruling means for the world?,  Dr Srikanth Kondapalli’s article, What the South China Sea Verdict Means? ( URLs attached below) and many more in various Newspapers and Journals.

Most of them are well written analysis, giving out the details and intricacies of the verdict, with lot of global expectations.

However there are certain realities which need to be brought to focus, if viewed neutrally.

  • The verdict is on expected lines with no major surprises and so is the Chinese reaction to it. It was all well anticipated globally.
  • It definitely conveys the global message that South China Sea cannot be treated as Chinese lake, or US lake, as global SLOC and trade is affected by it. It also conveys that Chinese claim of it being her sovereign territory is not being considered convincing. It also gives a message that similar adventurism to claim any global choke-point anywhere in the world, will also invite sharp criticism.
  • With China slowly and gradually losing more friends, it may be a great diplomatic and domestic exercise to put a brave front for defending her claims. Increased military movement and exercises in South China Sea by China is indicative of this.
  • For the time being I do not visualize any recognizable change in South China Sea. The military posturing and show of force by US and China will continue, along with diplomatic efforts to pull other affected countries into their strategic orbit. The other claimant countries can hope for better concessions from both sides as Vietnam being visited by President Obama, as well as Xi Jinping with unprecedented offers.
  • It certainly divides ASEAN with each country trying to get the best out of the existing situation and both the superpowers.
  • China’s luring claimant countries to bilaterally resolve South China Sea dispute is unlikely to work. The regional DoC and CoC will not be able to check China’s unilateralism. The use of global commons, however, will be well contested by regional and other affected countries, including global powers.
  • China’s strategy of ‘Active Defense’ by incremental encroachment has been well identified by all, however we should not be over anxious to apply the same template in resolving territorial land disputes with China, which have different complexities.Linking it with NSG issue with India by some writers seems irrelevant.
  • One point comes out clearly that each contending side reads history, as it suits her in claiming territories, hence historical claims cannot be the overarching basis of territorial resolutions.
  • China is neither the first or last country in not implementing international arbitration verdict ( in absence of any enforcement mechanism), but the verdict gives the global mood, and will put international and domestic pressure on Chinese hierarchy. India on the other hand had acted maturely as a responsible nation, by accepting a similar verdict was passed to resolve territorial water dispute with Bangladesh few months earlier by the PCA.
  • Status Quo is likely to prevail regarding occupation of Islands and reefs in South China Sea. I do not visualize a major change in actual ground position.

General Asthana


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