By Liu Zongyi
New Delhi has voiced its opinions about the South China Sea several times recently. At the virtual India-Vietnam Summit, Indian Prime Minister Modi said the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea "should not prejudice the interests of other countries in the region or third parties", and leaders of both sides stressed the importance of the so-called "freedom of navigation" in the region.
Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar also voiced India’s stance on the South China Sea issue at the East Asia Summit last month, expressing concerns over what he called "actions and incidents" that "erode trust".
India has never stopped searching for chips to counter China on the land boundary issue, which is an important reason for its strategic cooperation with Vietnam on the South China Sea issue and its exploration of oil and gas resources in disputed waters between China and Vietnam.
At present, the border standoff between Beijing and New Delhi continues, and India's logistics support at the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso is confronted with severe challenges. Therefore, India intends to exert pressure on China through the South China Sea issue to force China to back off on the border.
New Delhi has strengthened strategic military cooperation with countries around the South China Sea, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, over recent years, and built military facilities near the Malacca Strait, with an important purpose of guarding against China, even throttling its development.
Moreover, India will not stop at meddling in the South China Sea issue as a means to pressuring China, but really wants to counter China on the sea, an ambition further emboldened by Washington’s constant interference in the Asian-Pacific security situation.
After the Obama administration proposed the "Asia-Pacific rebalancing" strategy, Washington and New Delhi released the U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region when Obama visited India in January 2015. As a result, America's "Asia-Pacific rebalancing" strategy clicked with India's Look East policy, and the two countries especially stressed the "importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring the freedom of navigation and overflight in the entire region, especially the South China Sea".
India's position was heightened after the Trump administration threw out the "Indo-Pacific strategy", the focus of which is the West Pacific, especially the South China Sea. That's why the US is eager for India to meddle in the South China Sea issue.
After Modi was re-elected Prime Minister in 2019, the Indian government obviously moved faster in the strategic and security cooperation with the US, and took the initiative to upgrade the Quad security dialogue with the US, Japan and Australia. As India officially invited Australia to join the Malabar exercise this year, a quadrilateral military alliance on the sea, with a clear target -- China, has basically taken shape.
As a guardian of international order and regional security, China has always complied with international laws and rules. The South China Sea issue is very special, as it involves a lot of historical disputes. China has been trying hard to resolve the issue with ASEAN countries through peaceful negotiation, but countries outside of the region, such as the US and India, are afraid that the code of conduct agreed upon by China and ASEAN will tie their hands in countering China in the region through military means. Those countries will continue to make trouble on the South China Sea issue, and India will continue to take advantage of the issue to contain China.
(The author is Secretary General of the Center of China-South Asia Cooperation, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies)
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on huanqiu.com, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.