Foreign Policy Watch: India-Southeast Asia

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Southeast Asia

Quiet diplomacy could ease South China Sea tensions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : South China Sea issue, Significance of India Philippines maritime relations

South China Sea

What is the news?

  • During the fifth meeting of the Philippines-India Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation in New Delhi on June 29, the Foreign Ministers of India and the Philippines, S. Jaishankar and Enrique Manalo, respectively, discussed enhancing the bilateral partnership between the two countries. The meeting focused on maritime cooperation and addressing the South China Sea issue

Central Idea

  • With a shared history of diplomatic relations spanning nearly 75 years and common maritime interests, the External Affairs Minister of India, S. Jaishankar, and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Enrique Manalo, laid out a roadmap to enhance the bilateral partnership in the 21st century.

Significance and developments emerged from the meeting

  • Establishment of a resident defense attaché office in Manila: The decision to open a resident defense attaché office in Manila reflects a deeper commitment to defense cooperation between India and the Philippines. This move will facilitate closer coordination, information sharing, and joint defense initiatives.
  • Increased collaboration between the Coast Guards: The Coast Guards of India and the Philippines will enhance their collaboration, aiming to strengthen maritime security in the region. This includes joint patrols, information exchange, and joint operations to combat maritime threats.
  • Manila’s acquisition of naval assets with concessional credit from India: To bolster its maritime capabilities, the Philippines will acquire naval assets with the help of a concessional line of credit extended by India. This support will enhance the Philippines’ maritime defense capabilities and contribute to maintaining regional stability.
  • Expanded training and joint exercises on maritime security and disaster responses: Both countries will expand their training programs and conduct joint exercises focused on maritime security and disaster response. This cooperation will enhance operational readiness and preparedness to address maritime challenges, including disaster relief efforts.

The South China Sea issue: A significant topic of discussion

  1. Agreement on regional and multilateral issues: Both India and the Philippines reached an agreement on regional and multilateral matters, particularly emphasizing the importance of maritime highways like the South China Sea.
  2. India’s position on international law and the 2016 Arbitral Award:
  • India reiterated its consistent position of adhering to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
  • Notably, India made an unambiguous call to respect the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, which represents a departure from India’s previous stance.
  • This shift signifies India’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Arbitral Award.
  1. Background of the Arbitration Case: The Philippines had submitted a case for arbitration to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) to address its disputes with China in the South China Sea. Despite China’s formal withdrawal from the arbitration, the proceedings continued under UNCLOS guidelines.
  2. Key findings of the Arbitral Award:
  • The PCA’s Award, released on July 12, 2016, rejected China’s claims of historical rights in the South China Sea.
  • The tribunal determined that any claims to resources within the nine-dash line were unfounded.
  • It also found that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) through various actions, including interfering with fishing and petroleum exploration, constructing artificial islands, and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from operating in the zone.

What is Quiet diplomacy?

  • Quiet diplomacy refers to a diplomatic approach that focuses on behind-the-scenes negotiations and discussions conducted discreetly, away from public attention and media scrutiny.
  • It involves engaging in diplomatic efforts through confidential channels, informal dialogues, and private meetings to address sensitive issues and resolve conflicts.

How Quiet diplomacy could ease South China Sea tensions

  • Confidence-Building Measures: Quiet diplomacy can facilitate the implementation of confidence-building measures among the claimant states. This can include agreements on joint military exercises, information sharing, or cooperative initiatives aimed at reducing tensions and building trust.
  • Open Communication: Quiet diplomacy allows for confidential and discreet communication between stakeholders, such as China and the claimant states. It provides a platform for open dialogue where concerns and perspectives can be expressed, leading to better understanding and the potential for resolving differences.
  • Mediation and Facilitation: Quiet diplomacy may involve the engagement of neutral third-party mediators or facilitators who can assist in bridging differences and guiding the negotiation process. These mediators can provide a neutral perspective, offer expertise, and help facilitate constructive dialogue among the stakeholders.
  • Informal Track-II Diplomacy: Quiet diplomacy encourages informal exchanges and dialogues between academic experts, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations. These interactions can provide alternative perspectives, generate innovative ideas, and contribute to a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.
  • Crisis Management: Quiet diplomacy can be applicable during times of crisis or heightened tensions in the South China Sea. It allows for confidential crisis management talks between relevant parties, enabling swift and discreet negotiations to de-escalate tensions and seek temporary agreements

South China Sea

Way forward

  • Dialogue for Conflict Resolution: The South China Sea issue requires a political framework and dialogue for resolution. Leaders of ASEAN nations are encouraged to engage in “quiet diplomacy to find a political solution, as legal methods may have limitations. Dialogue provides an opportunity for peaceful conflict resolution through negotiations and diplomatic channels.
  • Emphasis on a Code of Conduct: The establishment of a legally binding code of conduct is crucial for managing the South China Sea issue. ASEAN leaders are called upon to work towards developing and implementing such a code. A code of conduct can provide guidelines and rules to manage disputes, reduce tensions, and promote stability in the region.
  • Regional Unity and Cooperation: Regional cooperation and unity among ASEAN nations are essential to address the South China Sea issue effectively. Greater understanding and coordination among ASEAN members can strengthen their negotiating position and foster a united front in dealing with challenges related to territorial claims and maritime security.
  • Respect for International Law: Upholding international law, including UNCLOS, is emphasized in the article. Countries are encouraged to respect legal and diplomatic channels, adhere to their obligations under UNCLOS, and uphold the rights of coastal states. Adherence to international law is essential for maintaining stability, resolving disputes, and promoting a rules-based order in the South China Sea.

Conclusion

  • By committing to a rules-based order and emphasizing the significance of international law, India underscores its commitment to regional stability and peace. The need for dialogue, political frameworks, and unity among ASEAN nations is crucial to achieving a peaceful resolution in the South China Sea, protecting vital maritime commons, and ensuring the uninterrupted flow of global trade.

Also read:

India’s Initiative for ASEAN Women in UN Peacekeeping

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Southeast Asia

Manila and New Delhi: A 21st Century Partnership

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : India- Philippines relations and its significance for regional cooperation in Indo Pacific

partnership

Central Idea

  • The year 2022 brought about a significant turning point for the world as Covid-19-related restrictions were gradually lifted, ushering in a renewed focus on international trade, commerce, and strategic partnerships. Against this backdrop, the Philippines and India have reinvigorated their cooperation after almost three years, aiming to strengthen bilateral ties and foster economic resurgence in the post-pandemic era.

Economic promise and growth trajectory of India and Philippines

  1. India’s Economic Promise and Growth Trajectory:
  • Projected Third-Largest Economy: India is projected to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027. This forecast highlights the country’s immense economic potential and growth prospects.
  • Fastest-Growing Large Economy: India has consistently maintained an impressive average GDP growth of 5.5 percent over the past decade. This growth rate positions India as the fastest-growing among the large economies globally.
  • Investment Opportunities: India’s growing economy offers numerous investment opportunities across various sectors, attracting both domestic and foreign investors seeking to capitalize on its vibrant market and expanding consumer base.
  • Emerging Middle Class: India’s rising middle class presents a significant consumer market, driving consumption and fueling economic growth. The expanding middle class creates opportunities for businesses and stimulates economic development.
  1. Philippines’ Economic Promise and Growth Trajectory:
  • Upper-Middle-Income Status: The Philippines is on the threshold of achieving upper-middle-income status, which signifies significant progress in its economic development and per capita income.
  • Trillion-Dollar Economy by 2033: The Philippines aims to become a trillion-dollar economy by 2033, reflecting its ambitious goals for economic growth and prosperity.
  • Poverty Reduction and Socio-Economic Agenda: President Ferdinand R Marcos Jr’s socio-economic agenda focuses on reducing poverty and fostering sustainable economic growth. This agenda sets the stage for inclusive development and resilience in key sectors such as agriculture, energy, and infrastructure.
  • Empowerment and Inclusion: The Philippines places emphasis on empowering its population and fostering greater inclusion. By ensuring that the benefits of economic growth reach all segments of society, the country aims to create a more equitable and prosperous nation.

The prospects for expanding trade and economic cooperation between the Philippines and India

  • Innovation and New Technologies: Both countries have vibrant innovation ecosystems and a growing focus on technological advancements. Collaborative efforts in research and development, knowledge sharing, and technology transfer can lead to the creation of innovative solutions and products. This cooperation can enhance productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness in various sectors.
  • Clean Energy and Renewable Technologies: India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, particularly in the development of wind and solar power. The Philippines has also made substantial investments in renewable energy technologies. Leveraging India’s expertise and experience, there is scope for collaboration in clean energy projects, including the adoption of advanced renewable technologies, sharing best practices, and promoting sustainable energy solutions.
  • Digital Infrastructure and Connectivity: India’s “Digital India” initiative and the Philippines’ efforts to strengthen its digital infrastructure provide opportunities for collaboration. This can involve sharing knowledge, experiences, and technologies in digitalization, e-governance, cybersecurity, and data management. Strengthening digital connectivity can facilitate trade, e-commerce, and digital services between the two countries.
  • Defense and Security Cooperation: There is potential for deeper cooperation in defense and security between the Philippines and India. The signing of contracts for defense procurement, such as the Philippines’ procurement of India’s BrahMos Shore-based Anti-Ship Missile System, signifies the beginning of such collaborations. Both countries can further explore joint exercises, defense industry partnerships, and information-sharing mechanisms to enhance their defense capabilities and address common security challenges.
  • Regional Economic Integration: The Philippines and India’s engagements within the framework of ASEAN, coupled with India’s “Act East Policy,” provide avenues for regional economic integration. Strengthening economic ties, promoting trade facilitation measures, and improving connectivity within the ASEAN-India network can enhance regional trade and investment flows. Collaboration in infrastructure development, logistics, and trade facilitation can further deepen economic integration.
  • People-to-People Exchanges: Enhancing people-to-people exchanges, including tourism, cultural interactions, and educational cooperation, can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s countries. This can contribute to building stronger economic and social ties between the Philippines and India.

Opportunities for regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

  • Economic Integration: Strengthening economic integration within the Indo-Pacific region is essential for creating a robust and interconnected economic ecosystem. The Philippines and India can play active roles in promoting and participating in initiatives such as the ASEAN Economic Community, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and other regional economic forums.
  • Connectivity and Infrastructure Development: Collaborative efforts in developing infrastructure, such as ports, roads, railways, and digital connectivity, can enhance regional connectivity and support economic growth. The Philippines and India can engage in infrastructure projects, joint investments, and partnerships to promote seamless connectivity within the region.
  • Maritime Security and Freedom of Navigation: Ensuring maritime security and upholding freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific is essential for trade, economic activities, and regional stability. Collaborative initiatives for maritime domain awareness, joint exercises, information-sharing mechanisms, and adherence to international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), can strengthen regional security and stability. The Philippines and India can actively participate in regional security frameworks, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), to address common maritime challenges.
  • Sustainable Development and Climate Change: Collaborative efforts in promoting sustainable development practices, sharing best practices in climate change adaptation and mitigation, and supporting initiatives for renewable energy and environmental conservation can contribute to the region’s long-term resilience. The Philippines and India can engage in knowledge sharing, capacity-building programs, and joint initiatives to address these challenges collectively.
  • People-to-People Exchanges and Cultural Cooperation: The Philippines and India can promote tourism, cultural exchanges, educational scholarships, and academic collaborations to deepen connections and promote mutual understanding among the diverse nations in the region.
  • Rules-based Order and Multilateralism: Upholding the principles of a rules-based order and inclusive multilateralism is crucial for regional stability and cooperation. The Philippines and India, as advocates for the rule of law, can actively engage in regional multilateral platforms such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to shape regional norms, promote dialogue, and address regional challenges collectively.

Conclusion

  • As the Philippines-India Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation convenes for its fifth iteration in New Delhi, the two nations look forward to meaningful exchanges that will set a firm course for a stronger partnership. Building upon their nearly 75 years of diplomatic ties and shared values as democratic Asian republics, the Philippines and India are poised to reinforce bilateral relations and leverage their common interests to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the post-pandemic era.

Also read:

ASEAN-India maritime exercise in South China Sea

 

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