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    Has India Lossed it's influence in South China Sea: By Shahid Majeed



    The Strategic Leverage of China has Cornered Everyone including India
                  
    China continues to construct military and industrial outposts on artificial islands it has built in disputed waters.The United States has also stepped up its military activity and naval presence in the region in recent years, including freedom of navigation operations reads one of the headlines recently. The dispute is all about a claim laid by China decades back about South China Sea(nine dash line) which includes Spratly and Paracel Islands in its ambit amid EEZ of many South East Asian countries in the region. The rising Chinese ambitions and Global Power claims have evolved compelled intrests for it to enhance the Military and Strategic activities of which the said region is emerging Hobsons Choice. The rising flare of active involvement can be gauged by the establishment of Artificial Island buildup to set up Military bases et al in the region has disturbed the engaged powers along nook and cranny. Despite the ICJ resolution in favour of small nations ( claimants) the China signalled red for verdict and reject it in one go which further raised the eye against its henious designs. The battle isn't all about China vs SE Asia but includes whole Asia Pacific on bases of strategic significance on reliance of commerce and trade routes amid sea lanes of communication and violation of UNCLOS. This wholesome series of events and the strategic significance has magnified the issue and created it the centre stage of novice power tussle for big powers as well. The more the China asserts the more the issue intensifies is snow White clear. Chinese Super Power ambitions are near to unravelling the issue of the day is whether it rises peaceably or compounds the already strained relationship for yet another war as has happened in rise of Bi-polar world and Uni-polar USA. 
                                    As far as the relationship of India - China is concerned, the history has remained witness to usual strain and stress in the chain with tilt towards China. This rests ok bases of Geographical confrontation to Strategic one and the tussle for big power ambitions in contemporary era. The strengthening of China Pakistan relationship has been amplified due to this rivalry on global stage. Keeping this in view the Indian strategic leverage or influence as has been witnesses on other platforms especially for the rights of Developing world seems in troubled waters. The parameters which would clearly manifest such importance and status are India-S E Asia relationship and Indian stand for UNCLOS ( United Nations Convention on Law Of Sea) .  On Eastern front ASEAN is one of India's time tested and reliable partner. Here the relationship is based on civilizational ethos. This relationship was taken to newer heights with India's active support for impartial and unbiased resolution of South China Sea dispute.The Delhi declaration adoption and the advancement on strategic front with ASEAN speaks for itself. Indo Vietnam collaboration continues even after concerns by China. Barring the growing clout of China in our neighborhood through economic doles and handouts the country took some intensive efforts for containment of China.  This reliance on Strategic partnership and its Safeguard by Indian establishment for South East Asia has involved India in the wholesome dispute. The Indian Government is deeply engaged in safeguarding its strategic relationship with SE Asian nations amid gaining advantage of supporting small nations especially when Chinese might is trying to create fissures in the Ideology of SE Asia. The defence of these small nations by Indian government has never gone down well with Chinese establishment who always seek such action as interference in internal affairs and strategic intrests of China. The India SE Asia strategic linkage is so essential for either party to dismember. However the Chinese mammoth investment clout is  engaging the countries slowly and steadily in its plan. The Malaysian involvement in such plan of China and the rising clout of said country is slowly creating strains in the United voice of SE Asia which may impact its rightful stand based on international law. This strategy has impacted indian voice to a great extent so far. Moreover China is engaging SE Asia in CEPA (Comprehensive Economic agreement) which was recently protested and subsequently exited by India citing domestic concerns. This would provide space for China to entangle whole SE Asia in its red economic policy with hidden political leverage thereafter. 
                                On the second parameter the Indian stand relies on International Law and jurisprudence which is a universal sense among small nations around world who try to eke out space for their rights and privileges. The verdict of ICJ on Philippines claim of South China Sea and  endorsement of same was outrightly rejected by China in unanimous voice citing internal reasons. The Indian stand was rested on same footing to stand by the international jurisprudence which has been framed decades back . The rejection of verdict by China has shown its interior designs and ulterior motives of supremacy. This despondency would definitely hurt the sentiments of countries involved in the dispute. Having said that the Indian support is not gonna bear fruit in this direction also which ultimately culminates in restraining it from using its influence there in the centre stage of dispute. The Country whose heavyweight allows it to reject International verdict is not gonna provide space for its rival in the scheme of things in South China Sea. The formation of QUAD Countries group as an axis of Democracy promising to upheld the international laws in Indo Pacific involving India and purportedly aimed at containing China seems to have lost its steam after withdrawal of Australia and confusion among members. The Axis is more an ideal than reality to be reached at. The China century burried the coward death of this grouping in its infancy stages. Thereby leaving no space to use platform for influence in South China Sea dispute. 
                                    To a more broader analysis, the international arena and the domestic conerns of India aren't catchy to use leverage in the dispute resolution. The GDP of the country in on decline trend continuously. The internal frictions are more apparent than ever in the past. The reliance on conservative attitude would hardly provide scope for advantageous overtures outside. While as the international fora clamped by China on either side is also antagonistic to the designs of dispute resolution. The VETO of China and its voice on international stage has created fault lines on axis evolving to confront it. USA is trying to put India on front for Chinese containment while using Pakistan at the same time for safe exit from Afghanistan where none other than India was put at risk for its security and development initiatives in war torn country. The reluctance of India to join as alliance partner of USA on one side and trial of containing the China pak axis through USA angle is battle so difficult to won. This strategy only strenthens the existing China Pak axis and weakens Indian voice as leader of Developing world. The strategic leverage of China has cornered everyone including india. The Cheek by Jowl of numerous Players in the South China Sea only hardens the stance of China out there. She has reportedly established Military radars and other belligerent installations there which may wreak havoc if handled carelessly. The base of the Indian establishment rests on confusion in its approach ( international law with allegations of breaking one) ,  QUAD as containment of China and Relationship with SE Asia while as leaving US violations on back burner and Priorities involvement in anti China platforms which ends in enraging China further. Once the Approach and Priorities meet at universal principal of ethics or safeguard of national intrest only then the world would ear its concerns. The Indian influence has definitely waned in South China Sea dispute.


    Writer Shahid Majeed Mir hails from Misribehak Machil Kupwara and can be reached at mirshahid363@gmail.com

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