Tag Archives: South China Sea

South China Sea Dispute – Response of ASEAN

International Conference on Changing Security Dynamic in the Indo-Pacific, organised by ICRIER at Hyderabad, on February 15-16, 2017

M. Mayilvaganan, Associate Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Abstract of Lecture/Presentation: The events following the recent verdict of the permanent court of arbitration on claims of the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS) has not only demonstrated Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) dilemma but also reflected the lack of unanimity among its member countries. ASEAN’s inability to respond to the territorial disputes in the SCS in an affirmative manner and particularly, its watered-down joint statement at the end of its 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Laos preferring to avoid reference to the court ruling against China are a case in point. Interestingly, the ASEAN coexisted traditionally with the US approach as many within it considered the latter as a stabilizing force.

However, with the newly elected US president Donald Trump’s censure on its allies’ failure to pay enough for US protection and his inward looking policy have raised concern among many littoral states. Similarly, Beijing upping the ante in SCS part of its larger game plan—including ignoring the court’s decree—and its growing clout over the region has put ASEAN to the test. Should China’s military buildup and its attempts to rewrite the rule book including its yearning to have power over the sea lines of communication—through which about $5 trillion trade passes annually—increase, undoubtedly it will heightened far reaching implications for the region and worldwide. In this context, the big question is that how does the 10 member bloc going to balance their own strategic interests as well as the unity of the bloc when the SCS emerging as a potential flashpoint. Particularly, it is imperative to examine how ASEAN is going to behave and will it be able to defend its centrality and credibility. Unless ASEAN manages to finalize a fair code of conduct in the SCS with China, its continuity and legacy would be in the challenge even may risk losing its very raison d’etre.

Findings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration: A Major Diplomatic Setback to China

ISSSP Reflections No. 47, July 14, 2016

Author: R.N. Ganesh

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25-nine-dashed-line-in-the-south-china-seaChina’s claims in the South China Sea are based on its “9-dash line”, which claims virtually the whole of the South China Sea. The 9-dash line is itself based on an ‘11-dash line” published by the Republic of China in 1947, (i.e., before the creation of the Peoples’ Republic of China), which has no valid historic, logical or legal basis. This claim predates the UNCLOS by several decades, and most of the countries of the SE Asian region were not even independent states at the time. China claims sovereignty over the South China Sea and has used military force to interfere with legitimate fishing and oil exploration activity by regional coastal states.  From 1970 the PRC reiterated its demands more aggressively when the Philippines began oil exploration off its coast. The Philippines began oil production in 1984, and today its offshore oil meets nearly 15% of its national requirement.

UNCLOS: Scope of Authority            

The UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea, to which the parties to the disputes in the South China Sea are signatories, lays down the principles based on which the living and non-living resources of the sea bed may be exploited by coastal state. As modified by the lay of the continental shelf and various other factors, it prescribes a limit of 200 nautical miles (approximately 360 kms), as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the coastal state. The Scarborough Shoal, the Spratley islands and the Paracels lie well outside this limit from China. In any case, where the EEZs of two coastal states overlap, they have to be negotiated and agreed based on certain formulae.

The UNCLOS does not rule on issues of sovereignty or national or territorial borders. Rather, it prescribes methods for use of the sea and the exploitation of the resources in and under it, outside of national boundaries. It also lays down how the limits of the EEZ are to be defined and the use and limits for the exploitation of the Continental shelf by coastal states. An important law in the Convention is that rocks and features that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. This is an issue that is particularly relevant in the case of the South China Sea.

South China Sea Disputes & the Case of Philippines

Taiwan and the coastal states of the ASEAN have 9 different points of dispute concerning maritime boundaries. Of these 7 involve China, and at least 5 states are affected in all but 2 of the disputes with China. China is averse to multilateral discussions and insists on dealing with each state separately so that it can extract the most advantage.

In the absence of any progress of its efforts to resolve the problems with China and the economic loss caused by inability to exploit its rightful maritime resources, the Philippines took its case to Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague in January 2013. The case dealt with 15 separate complaints about violations of international law by China in the South China Sea. Beijing responded by saying that it would not participate in any proceedings at The Hague, and that the PCA had no jurisdiction in the matter. The PCA undertook a detailed examination of China’s submission and in October last year it published its determination that the case fell within its jurisdiction. It accordingly proceeded with 7 of the 15 issues raised by the Philippines. These dealt with the following aspects:

  1. Role of historic rights
  2. Source of maritime entitlements
  3. Generation of maritime entitlements by certain maritime features
  4. Unlawful activities by China that were in violation of the Convention

Findings of the PCA               

  1. China’s Historic Rights: The Court ruled that the provision of comprehensive and exclusive rights by the UNCLOS had extinguished historic rights as they were incompatible with the concept of exclusive economic zones.
  2. Chinese Control over S. China Sea Waters: There was no historical evidence of Chinese control over the South China Sea waters or its resources
  3. Nine-Dash Line: There was no legal basis for claiming resources within the Nine-dash Line
  4. Maritime Features and Maritime Entitlements: The Court found that some reefs had been heavily modified by construction and land reclamation.  None of the features were capable of sustaining inhabitation in their natural state; therefore they could not have an EEZ, but only a 12-mile territorial limit.
  5. Within Philippine EEZ: As some areas were outside any possible entitlement of China, the Court could declare that these are within the the EEZ Philippine EEZ
  6. Unlawful Actions by China: The Court found that China had violated Philippines rights by interfering in with its fishing and oil exploration, constructing artificial islands, and allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippines EEZ.  China had also caused great harm to the marine environment by destroying reefs and depleting endangered species such as sea turtles. The Court found that China’s actions were incompatible with the the obligations on a while dispute resolution proceedings were going on.

Implications of the Findings of the Court of Arbitration

China has clearly suffered a setback with the Court of Arbitration so explicitly declaring it a violator of the UNCLOS, and upholding Philippines position. It is quite evident that the dashed lines have no validity and that seems to knock the bottom out of China’s case.

This does not mean that China will resile from its present claims in the South China Sea. Its whole aim there is to acquire the rights to exploit sub-sea resources, particularly offshore oil, and its likely reaction can be predicted. It will harden its position, condemn the Arbitration proceedings and reject the findings (which it has already said it would do) and adopt a tougher and more belligerent posture in its dealings with the USA and the ASEAN, which is already dubious about long-term security support from the US. It may respond to its legal and diplomatic failure with military bravado. It may well become more hard-nosed in its dealings with India, for instance in the border issue and in trade.  Such a reaction will be of a kind with its method of international policy, such as its aggressive postures with Japan over the Senkaku islands, or the ordering of the ADIZ over East China.

The softening of the US towards China has in a sense contributed to matters reaching near-crisis.  America has been aware for more long about the construction and land reclamation in the South China Sea, but its response has been muted, as it is not ideally placed to demand adherence to the Arbitration Court’s findings, not having itself ratified the UNCLOS.

China’s long-term aspiration, however, is to gain status and assert its place at the global  “head table.” This it cannot do if it continues to behave like a maverick. It has to return to its professed policy of a “harmonious rise” This will only happen if the world community takes a firmer stand on its conforming to international agreements.

About the Author

Vice Admiral RN Ganesh (Retd.) has commanded a diesel submarine, a nuclear submarine and the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. His last appointment was as the Director General of the Indian nuclear submarine programme which he continued to head after retirement from active service till 2004. He is adjunct faculty, ISSSP, NIAS.

KAS-Chatham House Workshop on Resources, Sovereignty and Geopolitics

KAS-Chatam House Workshop, Hong Kong, May 26-27, 2016

M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

Dr. M. Mayilvaganan participated in the KAS-Chatham House International Workshop on “Resources, Sovereignty and Geopolitics” on May 26 – 27, 2016, Hong Kong. In addition to being a discussant in the workshop that dealt with issues like South China Sea, Natural Resources and Non-Traditional Security Challenges, Dr. Mayil also chaired a session on “Natural Resources – Regional Integration and Geopolitical Shifts” where Chatham House Senior Fellow Dr. Tim Summers and Research Associate Ms. Sian Bradley presented their papers. This Interdisciplinary Workshop exchanged ideas about the causes of intergovernmental tensions concerning the access to natural resources in Asia. The focus was on developing concepts for a more efficient cooperation and the prevention of conflicts.

To read more about the conference click here

Selling “Brand India” in Vietnam

The Diplomat, November 25, 2014

Sadhavi Chauhan, Senior Research Fellow, National Institute of Advanced Studies

The DiplomatSince the election of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister, New Delhi has appeared determined to create “Brand India” by harnessing its soft power resources. This was very much on display at the meeting Modi had with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung, during the latter’s visit to New Delhi late last month.

The two leaders used the occasion to sign seven agreements. Unsurprisingly, the bulk of media coverage was directed at hard-nosed issues like the South China Sea, defense and security, energy cooperation, and trade. Unquestionably, these factors are playing a crucial role in Indo-Vietnamese ties. But no fewer than five of the seven deals focused on aspects of soft power, like religion, education, media interaction, and cultural cooperation. This is important evidence that New Delhi is exploiting its soft resources to enhance ties with its southeastern neighbor.

For the complete article click here

Pivot or Pirouette: The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Text of the Public Lecture,  National Institute of Advanced Studies, January 3, 2014
For the complete text of the lecture click here
For the video of the lecture click here
Excerpts from Dr. Ashley Tellis’s Public Lecture

Ashley Tellis Lecture CoverThe subject that I am going to speak on today is very important for the future of both our countries: the United States and India. I am going to talk about the U.S. effort that is underway to rebalance to Asia. It is important because it goes to the issue of what kind of geo-political environment is going to exist in this part of the world in the years to come. If we do not quite get that context right, then obviously the choices that it will impose on all the states that inhabit this region will be far more difficult. Understanding what the United States is trying to do, I think, is a useful first step in trying to assess the future of the broad Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, I am going to focus my remarks on this subject: understanding the genesis, the phenomenology and the consequences of the U.S. rebalance to Asia.

Rebalancing is really a strategic effort to go back to dealing with the fundamentals of the strategic situation. First, it is evidence of the American recognition that China’s rise is an enduring rise and not a flash in the pan. China is not suddenly going to disappear and take care of itself because of some internal crisis. It is the second element of rebalancing, the objective of managing China’s rise, which is going to be an extremely challenging one. Managing China is going to be a challenging task because it requires the United States to simultaneously socialise, integrate, deter and reassure China.

Rebalancing essentially involves three components. The strategic component is the one which has acquired a lot of attention in the public discourse. The other two equally important elements are the diplomatic and the economic components.

The idea, at the end of the day, is if all three components work as planned, the United States will begin to do much better than it did before in economic terms. That improved wealth and welfare performance will translate into greater availability of resources to the American state with respect to national defence. Those marginal increases in defence capabilities will in turn contribute to both defeating Chinese efforts to prevent the United States from being able to operate in Asia, while simultaneously reassuring American friends and allies. That, in a nutshell, is the logic of the strategy.

One also has to remember that this is a multi-player game. There is a U.S. relationship with China, there is a U.S. relationship with partners, and there is a relationship between partners and China. There is also a relationship among the partners themselves, and some partners do not happen to like one another.

For countries like India, Japan, Korea, and Australia, important nations that have proud histories and seek independent destinies, the success of U.S. rebalancing is vital. This is so because it is not yet clear to me that these countries have the capacity, either individually or in collaboration, to balance China independently of the United States. If that was the case, then the worst fears that the United States has with respect to Asia would be attenuated. Until the point where countries like Japan, India and Australia can muster the resources to assure themselves that they can successfully balance China, the best alternative for this part of the world is for U.S. rebalancing to be successful.

Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India

Seminar on “Asia-Pacific Power Dynamics: Strategic Implications and Options for India”

JRD Tata Auditorum, National Institute of Advanced Studies, March 10, 2014

In the emerging geopolitical discourse today, the Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a major centre of geostrategic interest. Accompanying this change in perception is a change in scope, with strategists not just considering the typical Indian Ocean, but also the western, and sometimes even central Pacific Ocean. The Asia-pacific ranges from East Africa to the western and central Pacific, including Japan and Australia. Asia-Pacific concept reflected a new reality shaped by the rise of China and India, a revitalized Japan, along with the continued primacy of the United States and also signifies the accelerating economic and security connections between the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean thus creating a single strategic system. There are several reasons for the growing importance of Asia-Pacific region as a geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic space today.

First, with all the countries focusing more on the sea and adopting maritime oriented geo-strategies, it becomes evident that seas would continue to remain a vital part of the well-being of many national economies, commerce and security landscapes. This is demonstrated by a growing demand for resources—both living and non-living, expanding maritime trade, rising maritime boundary disputes and political tensions. Second, the region’s strategic and economic significance has also been growing exponentially. Especially with the rise of Asian powers like China and India, trade has surged. In fact, Asia-Pacific in a sense is all about the growing centrality of these two emerging powers to global geopolitics. Incidentally, the Asia-Pacific incorporates some of the busiest sea lanes in the world and has important choke points. Undoubtedly, the rising energy and investment flows along with above factors make Asia Pacific an important area to examine and study the developments of strategic relations and power dynamics.

Finally, the growing economic and military power of China has unsettled many regional countries prompting them to encourage other major regional and external powers to engage in the region. Many are apprehensive that their political and strategic interests may be under threat with the rise of powerful China and its assertive maritime behaviour. It is in fact these concerns that have aided in advancing the concept of ‘Asia-Pacific’ and ‘Indo-Pacific’, which is evident with the U.S. pivot to Asia and the direct mention and discussion in Australia’s Defence White Paper (2013). Incidentally, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too referred this terminology last December 2012, when he moved to enhance India’s relations with ASEAN.

In this context, the important questions are what is India’s role in the changing geopolitical power dynamics in Asia-Pacific region? And where does India stand in the emerging systems of alliances formation? Asian countries vary in the extent to which they seek to formalize Asia-Pacific alliances. While it is expected that the U.S., Japan and Australia would be more proactive in seeking formal arrangements, India is likely to be less willing, albeit still keen to work with other countries in the region to ensure peace and stability. For New Delhi, a degree of ambiguity and equivocality serves its interests in the region. Perhaps any direct and vocal engagement with one group will not only run the risk of antagonising China; but it will also diminish the freedom of action that India associates with its non-alignment policy. Its hesitancy notwithstanding, India may invariably find itself a part of this collective security framework, within which it will need to work with countries such as the U.S., Japan and Australia. Notably, the US pivot to Asia entails a strategic realignment that would accord an important role to India and the Asia-Pacific in the near future. But undoubtedly India is an important stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific region and as a responsible actor, it will have to employ some astute diplomacy by demonstrating that it can work equally well with China given the latter’s respect for Indian concerns.

It is in this context that the International Strategic and Security Studies (ISSSP), National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, is organising the above seminar. We hope the seminar will facilitate a debate on the concept of Indo-Pacific region, the emerging strategic trends in the region and ramifications in policy formulations among a number of Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean countries, particularly India and its relevance for regional stability and security. The conference aims to bring together scholars, experts and analysts to deliberate on the issues related to the Asia-Pacific region and the complex relationship matrix among the relevant countries. The conference will be divided into four sessions.

For the Seminar Concept Note click here
For the Programme of the Seminar click here

Public Lecture by Dr. Ashley Tellis on U.S. Rebalance to Asia

Dr. Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace visited the International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP), National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore on January 3, 2014. He interacted with the ISSSP faculty and research staff.

Later in the evening he delivered a public lecture on the topic  Pivot or Pirouette: The U.S. Rebalance to Asia.

Abstract of the Public Lecture by Dr. Ashley Tellis

The Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia has received widespread attention globally. In Europe, the rebalance has evoked fears that the United States might be abandoning old allies in light of the need to cope with new challenges elsewhere. In Asia, the rebalance has evoked mixed reviews: in China, it is viewed as a subtle form of containment whereas in other parts of Asia, it has been welcomed more fulsomely, even when many capitals have doubts about its effectiveness. So what is the rebalance anyway? This presentation will focus on understanding the genesis of the rebalancing policy, its specific objectives and its multiple dimensions, and its requirements for success. It will assess whether the rebalance to Asia can in fact resolve the fundamental challenges facing the United States and its allies in the region.

The video of Dr. Tellis’s public lecture as well as pictures of his visit are available below

Video of Dr. Ashley Tellis’s Public Lecture


Video of Discussion following Dr. Ashley Tellis’s Public Lecture


Photos of Public Lecture by Dr. Ashley Tellis at NIAS

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Photos of Dr Ashley Tellis’s interactions with ISSSP members

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Pivot or Pirouette: The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies invites you to a Public Lecture by Professor Ashley Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC.

Pivot or Pirouette: The U.S. Rebalance to Asia

 Dr. Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

chaired by

Prof. S. Chandrashekar,  J R D Tata Visiting Professor


Friday, January 3, 2014 | 5 pm

at the

J R D Tata Auditorium, NIAS, IISc Campus, Bangalore – 560012

(Coffee/Tea : 4.30 pm)


The Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia has received widespread attention globally. In Europe, the rebalance has evoked fears that the United States might be abandoning old allies in light of the need to cope with new challenges elsewhere. In Asia, the rebalance has evoked mixed reviews: in China, it is viewed as a subtle form of containment whereas in other parts of Asia, it has been welcomed more fulsomely, even when many capitals have doubts about its effectiveness. So what is the rebalance anyway? This presentation will focus on understanding the genesis of the rebalancing policy, its specific objectives and its multiple dimensions, and its requirements for success. It will assess whether the rebalance to Asia can in fact resolve the fundamental challenges facing the United States and its allies in the region.

About the Speaker

Ashley TellisAshley J. Tellis is Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues. While on assignment to the US Department of State as Senior Adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, he was intimately involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India. Previously he was commissioned into the Foreign Service and served as Senior Adviser to the Ambassador at the US Embassy in New Delhi. He also served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Strategic Planning and Southwest Asia. Prior to his government service, Tellis was Senior Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation and Professor of Policy Analysis at the RAND Graduate School. He is the author of India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture (2001) and co-author of Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future (2000). He is the Research Director of the Strategic Asia program at NBR and co-editor of the ten most recent annual volumes, including this year’s Strategic Asia 2013–14: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age. In addition to numerous Carnegie and RAND reports, his academic publications have appeared in many edited volumes and journals. He earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

Examining India’s Look East Policy 3.0

International Policy Digest, November 21, 2013

M. Mayilvaganan, Assistant Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies

int policy digestThe changing geopolitical environment in Asia and in particular in the Indian Ocean region brings attention to the role of oceans in shaping a country’s strategic and security policy. The launch of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, Vikrant, on August 12, and later, a military satellite from French Guiana, on August 30, appears to form an integral part of India’s Asia-Pacific strategy or India’s Look East Policy (LEP) 3.0 Strategy. China views the Indian aircraft carrier and military satellite as a power projection by New Delhi in the region.The improved version of India’s LEP 3.0 strategy appears designed to help New Delhi maneuver into a favorable position in the Asia-Pacific, without being directly involving in any internal conflicts but at the same time meeting challenges that might arise in the region.

For the complete article click here
Conducting Academic and Policy Research related to National and International Security Issues
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