Written by Daniel Edgar, exclusively for South Front
It has finally happened, growing from slow beginnings to become a major strategic factor in the geopolitical calculations in the Asia-Pacific region, one of the worst nightmares of Chinese geopoliticists and super-Patriots. India has joined and copied the US containment strategy against its arch foe in the Asia Pacific region, launching a belated ‘diplomatic’ charm offensive and industrial/ commercial marketing campaign in an effort to win over some new friends and significantly boost existing political and economic ties with China’s neighbours and other countries in the region.
Not surprisingly given the intensity and longevity of their respective territorial disputes with China, India’s relations with Vietnam in particular have achieved an impressive scope as they have found each other to be ideal allies and partners – close, but not too close, with largely compatible sets of capabilities, needs and objectives. LINK
The immediate success that India has achieved in this venture is in large part due to China’s intransigence in the ‘South China’ Sea Dispute. Just as China’s unreasonable ‘9 dash line’ – that in effect claims exclusive Chinese sovereignty and jurisdiction over the entire maritime region into areas that are many hundreds of miles from China proper and that push up to a few miles from the coastlines of some of its neighbours – has provided fertile waters for the US to wreak havoc in the region, playing out its divide, conquer and reign supreme strategies, objectives and ‘national’ interests, all of which dovetail neatly with its incessant efforts to isolate, contain and punish China for daring to refuse to pledge unquestioning obedience to the lords of Washington and Wall Street.
One only has to glance at a map to note that the maritime territorial claims being rigidly and dogmatically asserted by China are unreasonable and unrealistic, and that none of the neighbouring States can or will ever accept them.
The outbreak of war in the European hinterland in February should have made all of the countries in the region hyper-aware of the folly and recklessness of permitting the festering territorial dispute to remain unresolved. While a few diplomats and political leaders in the region uttered some of the obligatory platitudes and statements of commitment to resolving disagreements pacifically in the aftermath of the abrupt escalation of the armed conflict in Ukraine, the perturbed murmurings rapidly faded away and the respective countries returned to their belligerent, provocative and decidedly undiplomatic rhetoric, manoeuvrings and stand-offs, including aggressive and provocative maritime deployments and activities that inevitably create confrontations and physical stand-offs, any one of which could abruptly spin out of control and instigate another catastrophic war given the size of the stakes and egos involved.
It appears that after all this time, the only possible solution that won’t leave lingering feelings of resentment and ill-will between two or more of the countries that have extended coastlines on the waterway between Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and China still hasn’t been seriously considered by any of the respective countries, not even in a cursory and speculative manner. That is, creating a zone of joint maritime security and cooperation for mutual benefit between all of the neighbouring States, with all of the neighbouring countries sharing responsibility for environmental management and economic development strategies as well as for maintaining security and safety in the maritime region, with the military forces of all other States excluded from the area (other than for brief transit purposes) unless all neighbouring States consent.
Returning to the original topic, it could even provide a template for China and India to resolve their other festering perpetual border disputes in a like manner: demilitarizing disputed areas other than a moderate joint security presence on the basis of approximate equality, embarking on a scheme of joint management of the relevant areas and joint exploitation of natural resources that occur therein, with major policies, projects and decisions always requiring the consent of both parties.
Given that so many politicians and their main opponents and rivals for power – whether within or from outside the government – are fearless when it comes to threatening rivals and enemies but are completely gutless when it comes to adopting conciliatory language and committing to dialogue and compromise to find mutually agreeable and beneficial arrangements for coexistence, the joint security and management of such areas would need to be elaborated on a temporary basis to start with. If war hasn’t broken out in the meantime, the agreements could be renewed or revised after a period of (say) three or five years on a revolving basis.
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