Sunday, May 13, 2012

India might get involved in the Philippine – Chinese dispute over the Scarborough Shoal

The Indian government officials hinted yesterday that they are interested in the ongoing diplomatic standoff between the Philippines and China over a group of isolated rocks in the South China Sea. In a very unusual step, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs urged both the nations to show restraint and resolve the territorial dispute through dialogue. 

The ministry also said that it was concerned about the events and the effect it may have on stability of the region.

India has been strengthening its diplomatic and trade ties with the nations bordering South China Sea for some time now. Last year, it signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government to undertake oil and natural gas exploration in some of the disputed areas. The measure invited strong criticism from the Chinese government, which warned the Indians to stay away from the region. China claims that the exploration blocks, which the Vietnamese government granted to Indian oil exploration companies, are actually within its own borders. However, both India and Vietnam rejected China’s claims, saying that as per the United Nations, the bocks are completely within the maritime boundaries of Vietnam. The defence sources further said that Indian oil exploration companies like Oil and Natural Gas Commission Videsh Limited (OVL) will work to strengthen their presence in the region.

Meanwhile, the protests against alleged Chinese naval bullying continued in Philippines, as more than 1,000 people protested in downtown Manila yesterday. Some of the protestors burnt Chinese flags outside their consulate in Makati. However, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, regarded as the mouthpiece of the Chinese Armed Forces, again made it clear on Thursday that China will not show any restraint in the territorial dispute. The daily warned the Philippine authorities that the patience of the Chinese defence forces are running out and they are not going to tolerate any more of the defiance from them.

The standoff at the Scarborough shoal is not showing any sign of diffusion, as both the sides are moving in more and more military equipment and warships. The dispute started when the Philippine Navy stopped some Chinese fishermen from poaching in the area, claiming they don’t have the right to fish there. The South East region is economically very important for India, as a lot of trade is conducted with the ASEAN member nations. Indian Navy is involved in the anti-piracy and anti-smuggling operations in the area and the armed forces are looking towards the strengthening of already friendly ties with many of the South Eastern Asian nations.

Sahil | Indian Defence | May 11, 2012 | Article Link

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