South China Sea – Love Thy Neighbour?

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by Adithya Rajeev

The dispute concerning South China sea is one that has a history of over 40 years. The disagreement among states within the region, namely Brunei, The Republic of China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and the Vietnam, concerns the sovereignty over the ocean areas and the two island chains, Paracels and the Spratlys.

WHAT IS THE DISPUTE?

During World War II, Japan had conquered the islands of Paracels and the Spratlys and administered the Spratlys via Taiwan’s jurisdiction and the Paracels via Hainan’s jurisdiction. However, after the surrender of Japan in 1945, the two islands were handed over to the Republic of China. In 1971, the Philippines President Marcos placed claims on the islands adjacent to its territory in the Spratlys. This was later followed by the unified Vietnamese government restating their claims on the islands.

In 1990, China enacted a law, declaring the entire South China Sea to be a part of its territory. The actions were criticized and heavily protested against by nations around the region. In 1999, Taiwan declared that the islands historically belonged to them and denounced actions taken by Philippines.

Though ASEAN and China finally agreed on a code of conduct of the parties in the South China Sea in 2002, China failed to pay heed to them and initiated many violent attacks on ships and vessels of other countries over the years.

The Dispute was recently triggered into action when China imposed a fishing permit rule in the said region. The Philippines have finally filed a case to the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration regarding the said dispute; however China has refused to take part in the arbitration.

WHY THE INTEREST?

The interest of different nations includes acquiring fishing rights around the two islands and exploitation of natural resources like crude oil and natural gas. The sea also provides a major shipping route for all the neighbouring nations.

CURRENT SITUATION
Many nations, including the United States, have claimed interest over the dispute citing the “freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and International Law”. However the actions of the United States in the said matter by citing International law is highly debatable as the US is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS). India also has a similar stand on the matter claiming that the disputes must be settled amicably in accordance with international laws. Though a case has been initiated by the Philippines, the chances of an amicable solution to the issue are slim as China is yet to co-operate with the proceedings. Even if the Philippines is successful in the UN Tribunal, China is under no obligation to abide by the ruling. With the tensions brewing between the nations, an amicable solution to the dispute seems likely to remain a distant dream.

International Law As Smart Power

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by Basil Ajith

In this era, when soft power compliments military and economic power; Harold Hongju Koh, former Legal Advisor to the US Department of State, makes a definitive statement, that having an upper hand in International Law is “Smart Power.” Watch this video to hear from the Yale Sterling Professor, to understand the current relevance of International Law.

Russia Declares War On Ukraine! Really?

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by Basil Ajith

 
There you have it! 
Putin’s done it. 
They’re going to war, 
We’re going to war! 
God be with them, 
May God be with them.

No, stop Googling; I just made the rhyme up.

Russia’s going to war with Ukraine (Now, this is one hilarious article!). Actually, no express declaration of war was made by Putin (watch the interview here). What he  said was, that

Russia will not go to war with the people of Ukraine, but will use its troops to protect citizens, if radicals with clout in Kiev now try to use violence against Ukrainian civilians, particularly ethnic Russians.

And this was interpreted by the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk as a declaration of war by Russia.

According to an Ukranian expert, Putin already had a project of bringing together a Russian version of the European Union and Ukraine had other plans. So, an armed intervention to exert some pressure on Ukraine seems plausible to the former KGB functionary and incumbent President of Russia. Putin even justified his actions on an alleged request for armed support by the Ukranian Prime Minister.

Anyway, the situation’s tense; the media’s ready (as always), scholars have braced up, and even refugees from Ukraine have started flowing in to Russia. May God be with them.

India – US: Tit- for- tat

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by Parvathi S

Almost one month after the arrest of the Former Indian Deputy Consul General Devayani Khobragade India has retaliated against the US. Surprising millions of people across the globe including me, India has come out of its “diplomatic image” and has finally taken a bold step in this issue.

India in response to the arrest and strip search owing to accusation of visa fraud of the Ms. Khobragade, India has asked the US embassy to “withdraw” its diplomat Wayne May who holds a similar position like Ms. Khobragade in the embassy. He is alleged to have helped the family of Sangeetha Richard, the former domestic help of Ms. Khobragade, to fly out of the Country to the US. This is yet another incident that strains the India-US relationship. It is after 33 years that India is taking such an action against the US. Earlier in 1981 the US Political Counselor George Griffin was sent back in retaliation for the returning of Prabhakar Menon, a career diplomat from India.

Though not sure where the US – India relations are headed to, this definitely is a gallant move by India. Interesting times ahead!!!