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South China Sea dispute UPSC NOTE


  • New Delhi’s engagement with the South china sea region was initially primarily economic, driven by its Look East Policy, which aimed to enhance economic integration with Southeast Asia and the imperative to secure energy resources to fuel its growing economy

  • The participation of Indian state-owned enterprises, such as the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s overseas arm (ONGC Videsh), in oil and gas exploration projects in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and other similar ventures not only signified India’s economic stakes in the region but also its support for the principle of freedom of exploration and exploitation of maritime resources within the bounds of international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

  • The transformation of India’s policy orientation from Look East to Act East under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has marked a shift towards a more strategic and active engagement with the Indo-Pacific region

  • This policy evolution reflects India’s acknowledgment of the changing geopolitical landscape and the need for a more proactive and multifaceted foreign policy approach with the Act East Policy emphasising not only economic integration but also strategic partnerships and expanded security cooperation with countries in the Indo-Pacific including Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Philippines

  • India has also simultaneously strengthened its own capacities through forward positioning, mission-based deployments, reinforced maritime domain awareness, and deep-water maritime facilities.

  • With geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea having steadily escalated, particularly due to China’s assertive territorial claims and militarisation efforts, India’s stance has become more nuanced while simultaneously becoming less cautious. 

  • The evolution of India’s position on the South China Sea cannot be decoupled from its complex relationship with China

  • The Galwan Valley incident also saw India sending a frontline warship to the South China Sea in a demonstration of India’s capability for asymmetric deterrence. 

  • China’s assertive posture and territorial claims in the South China Sea and along India’s land border have substantially disruptive implications for regional stability. 

  • India’s strategic engagements, including regular naval exercises and the strengthening of military cooperation with Southeast Asian nations, serve dual purposes: they underscore India’s commitment to regional security and act as a counter to China’s unlawful assertions.

  • The disputes in the South China Sea, primarily involving China and several Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, have implications for the freedom of navigation and overflight — principles that are vital for not only India’s trade and energy transportation routes but also that of countries across the globe

  • As a responsible stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific, India can no longer shy away from taking unambiguous positions on matters of such critical importance. 

  • Its centrality in the Indo-Pacific theatre means that its periphery is no longer only the Indian Ocean but also the wider maritime domain where China’s rise is challenging the status quo in ways not anticipated before. 

  • The ASEAN centrality in India’s Indo-Pacific strategy also makes it imperative for India to buttress the ASEAN position, though differences within the regional grouping continue to pose a challenge to such endeavours.

  • India’s nuanced approach in the region, therefore, is emblematic of its broader strategy aiming to safeguard its interests while contributing to a collective effort to maintain peace, stability, and respect for international law in the Indo-Pacific.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: South China Sea dispute UPSC NOTE
South China Sea dispute UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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