Unlike China: India's Civil Approach to Territorial Disputes

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 8/13/2014 01:30:00 AM
Civil sorts prefer going this route.
This Southeast Asian is rather tired of intrusions by would-be imperialists into our waters: China and the United States are similarly bullying presences, with the former coming more and more into the focus as the latter embarks on the road to nowhere fast. In the study of international relations, there is the so-called "power transition theory" which is frequently invoked to explain how Southeast Asia is being caught in the crossfire between these rival powers:
One by-product of differential growth is the high potential for conflict when a challenger [China] and a preeminent or dominant nation [the United States] reaches the stage of relative equivalence of power, and specifically when the challenger is dissatisfied with the status quo. Understanding the interaction of the structural and dynamic components of power transition theory provides a probabilistic tool by which to measure these changes, and to forecast likely events in future rounds of change.
The trouble with China with regard to the so-called South China Sea is that, having asserted time and again to its citizens that it is an inseparable part of China, moves to moderate its position and accommodate its smaller neighbors the Philippines and Vietnam will not likely happen. It cannot lose face. Nevermind that China does not respect international law--the law of the sea--but they've learned from the United States that might makes right since the US isn't even a signatory to this law. Imagine, however, an alternate parallel universe where China did not adapt inflexibly totalitarian positions on territorial questions. It may, in this case, be more like India. Recently, India coming into compliance with a ruling against it at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) meant it giving in to Bangladesh--hardly a scary threat to it:
If good fences make good neighbors, that may explain why much of Asia’s recent territorial tension has centered on the ocean. India took a step toward tighter ties with Bangladesh this month in surrendering its four-decade claim to a swathe of the Bay of Bengal about the size of Lake Ontario, opting to heed a United Nations-backed ruling. Bangladesh praised its neighbor’s move, with the head of state-run oil monopoly Petrobangla saying the newfound clarity will unlock drilling opportunities. 
Contrast India's example to our rather less accommodating neighbor:
The decision provides a contrast with China, which declines to acknowledge any UN jurisdiction in its dispute with the Philippines over maritime claims. The difference in approach shows why tensions are rising in the South China Sea as companies ramp up oil and gas investment in the Bay of Bengal. “This is a showcase judgment of how countries can reach an amicable agreement,” said S. Chandrasekharan, New Delhi-based director of the South Asia Analysis Group, referring to India and Bangladesh. “The South China Sea is a glaring example of how one intransigent country can hold up everything.” 
I love that dig aimed at China. To be sure, China added exceptions to its ratification of the law of the sea precisely to avoid legal entanglements with the Philippines and Vietnam over the South China Sea. That said, its neo-imperialist intransigence does nothing for its soft power. To insist on a claim so expansive means that few could call it legitimate with a straight face given that historic grounds are not considered valid by the law of the sea. Meanwhile, here is another article on the ruling. The court's site has the particulars on the decision.

Let India show China the way.