The South China Sea is an arm of western Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia.
It is south of China, east & south of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and north of the island of Borneo.
Bordering states & territories (clockwise from north): the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.
It is connected by Taiwan Strait with the East China Sea and by Luzon Strait with the Philippine Sea.
It contains numerous shoals, reefs, atolls and islands. The Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal are the most important.
This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. (Strait of Malacca)
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) one-third of the global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade which makes it a significant geopolitical water body.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines, this sea has one-third of the entire world’s marine biodiversity and contains lucrative fisheries providing food security to the Southeast Asian nations.
The South China Sea is believed to have huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.
In News: The Chinese fishing fleets have been seen raiding the rich waters of the South China Sea that are internationally recognised as exclusively Indonesia’s to fish. The fishermen in Natuna Islands (Indonesia) are worried.
The Chinese steel trawlers scrape the bottom of the sea and destroy other marine life. Chinese trawling also breaches the maritime borders. Since China is its largest trading partner, it has been argued that the Indonesian government has not taken any steps to deal with the incursions by Chinese fishing boats.
China’s illegal fishing near the Natuna islands carries global consequence, reminding regional governments of Beijing’s expanding claims to the South China Sea through which one-third of the world’s maritime trade flows. China wants to claim the resources such as oil, natural gas, and fish in the South China Sea. The presence of Chinese fishers also helps to embody China’s maritime claims. The nine dash line (rejected by an international tribunal) asserted by China violates the principle of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
History of Dispute
In the first half of the 20th century, the Sea remained almost quiet. In fact, at the end of World War II, no claimant occupied a single island in the entire South China Sea.
China laid claim to the South China Sea in 1947. It demarcated its claims with a U-shaped line made up of eleven dashes on a map, covering most of the area.
But two “dashes” were removed in the early 1950s to bypass the Gulf of Tonkin as a gesture to communist comrades in North Vietnam.
The remaining ‘nine-dash line’ stretches hundreds of kilometers south and east of its southerly Hainan Island, covering almost 90% of South China Sea.
After 1960’s when the huge reserve of oil and natural gas were discovered in the region, the territorial claims started growing in an unprecedented manner.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in 1994, established a legal framework intended to balance the economic and security interests of coastal states with those of seafaring nations.
While UNCLOS has been signed and ratified by nearly all the coastal countries in the South China Sea, based on their own interpretation of the UNCLOS, claimant countries started to legitimize their claims.
In 2002, ASEAN and China came together to sign the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to keep disputes away. However, it didn’t achieve the desired outcomes.
In 2009, Malaysia and Vietnam sent a joint submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for setting out some of their claims. In response to this China submitted a map containing the infamous “nine-dash” line and due to which, there was no headway in the dispute resolution.
Why in the news?
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), based in The Hague, Netherlands, recently ruled that China’s claims of historical rights over the South China Sea (SCS) has no legal basis. The case against China was initiated by the Philippines.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) has ruled that China’s claims to the waters within the “nine-dash line”, was in breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The court also observed that China has caused “severe harm to the coral reef environment” by building artificial islands.
The Philippines had lodged the suit against China in 2013 and has welcomed the ruling, but China has reacted furiously, saying that it “does not accept and does not recognise” the decision.
China had even refused to participate in the case, saying that the tribunal had “no jurisdiction” over the issue.
It is important to note that this ruling, comes at a critical juncture, as China bolsters its global economic status. China has a long-standing ambition to be accorded recognition as a market economy under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
With reference to the current ruling by the tribunal, the U.S. can’t exert much moral pressure as it has not even ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Conversely, since both China and the Philippines have ratified the UNCLOS, there is more pressure on China to comply.
Geopolitics and Activities undertaken in the region:
Between China and the Philippines, the conflict centers around the Scarborough Shoal. The Scarborough Shoal, is essentially atriangle-shaped chain of reefs and rocks with a total area of 150 square kilometers.
In 1995, China took control of the disputed Mischief Reef, constructing octagonal huts on stilts- Chinese officials said at the time that these would serve as shelters for fishermen. The Philippines registered a protest through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In fact, the current round of tension between the two countries began in 2008-2009 after a tense but bloodless stand-off over the Scarborough Shoal, led to China gaining de facto control of it in 2012.
Also recently, China has constructed and installed military-capable infrastructure in the Spratly Islands.
China’s state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has accelerated oil exploration, especially in the western region of the South China Sea. China’s rising energy demands appears to be a factor fuelling its assertion in South China Sea, and sharpening its disputes with littoral states, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, along with Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Recently, Chinese and Russian naval forces carried out joint air defense and anti-submarine drills in the South China Sea (SCS)- this was part of an eight-day naval war game, Joint Sea-2016, which is the largest naval military exercise ever between the two countries.
Reasons for the stalemate on a possible solution
ASEAN member nations, namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, often show signs of anxiety whenever claimants over the South China Sea, most often China, escalate the conflict.
In fact, one of the fundamental principles of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been to resolve disputes by peaceful means and to reach agreement by a consensus.
But on the issue of the South China Sea, ASEAN has been unable to formulate a consensus policy. Reasons for this can be attributed partly to the fact that not all 10 ASEAN members are claimants to the South China Sea. While another reason is that members of ASEAN have overlapping claims among themselves. Moreover, bilateral relations between China and some smaller ASEAN members, such as Laos and Cambodia, are also a factor. Because of its economic and military power, China has been able to win over some ASEAN members.
In fact, when China insisted on talks among the parties concerned, the claimants in ASEAN wanted to pursue it through multilateralism or the Court of Arbitration. Thus, the existence of two opposing approaches was, and continues to be a major challenge for bringing a mutually acceptable solution to the South China Sea disputes.
Strategic Importance of South China Sea:
It is important to note that the South China Sea (SCS) contains one of the world’s busiest international sea lanes and is also home to many of the world’s busiest shipping ports. The South China Sea also connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans and thus is of a unique strategic importance to the littorals of these two oceans which are important naval powers in the region- such as India, Japan, etc.
The SCS, is one of the main arteries of the global economy and trade. More than $5 trillion of world trade ships pass through the SCS each year. The SCS is rich in resources, with numerous offshore oil and gas blocks. The natural resources in the region are yet to be explored.
The United States Energy Information Agency estimates that there are 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in deposits under the South China Sea (SCS).
The waters of the South China Sea (SCS), contain lucrative fisheries that, according to some estimates, account for 10% of the global total.
The Indian Context
It is important to note that in July 2014, an Arbitration Tribunal, set up under the Permanent Court of Arbitration, delivered its ruling, in the matter of the Bay of Bengal Maritime Boundary Delimitation between India and Bangladesh. The maritime boundary so delimited covered the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf.
The United Nations tribunal awarded Bangladesh 19,467 sq. km of the 25,602 sq. km sea area of the Bay of Bengal.
India has been widely credited, with her acceptance of the decision and the manner in which she has abided by it. This is an example which China should be encouraged to emulate. In fact, it is interesting to note that the US has asked China to learn from India’s handling of its maritime disputes with its neighbours- referring to the maturity with which India has agreed to the settlement on the maritime boundary with Bangladesh.
Under the ‘Act East’ policy, India has been taking a higher position at the global high table- this was reflected in the joint statement issued in September 2014, by the Governments of U.S. and India when Indian PM Narendra Modi, travelled to U.S. The joint statement “urged the concerned parties to pursue resolution of their territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” The joint statement also, “affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.”
In the wake of the recent judgement by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, it is a good time for India to assert that it believes in global commons, and in freedom of navigation. India has rightfully not come out in ‘open’ support of the verdict from the tribunal, as any overt support to this verdict might run against India’s ambitions of securing membership into the NSG- where China’s support is needed.
India has legitimate commercial interest in the South China Sea (SCS) region. But India follows the policy of not involving itself in the disputes between sovereign nations.
India has been concerned about the security of its trade-flows and energy interests in the South China Sea. Vietnam has offered India seven oil blocks in its territory of the SCS- this move didn’t get down well with China. India has signed energy deals with Brunei too.
India has been a strong advocate of the idea of freedom of navigation. This belief is strongly echoed by most other major powers, including the U.S.
Possible Way Forward
China operates from a position of strength in the South China Sea, wherein it has physical control over critical islands in the region, coupled with this, her policy of gradual militarization of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, would impact freedom of navigation- making China the main arbiter of the accepted range of ‘legitimate’ operations in the South China Sea.
Also, although the ruling is historic, the tribunal lacks powers to enforce its rulings, it is important that the claimant nations do not escalate the issue, but work on arriving at a consensus through effective diplomacy.
Judicial verdicts on issues of contested sovereignty have had historical precedents of triggering a nationalist backlash. It is thus important to consider possible solutions to this dispute. Some measures are as under:
To resolve the disputes peacefully, the claimants in the region should be willing to abandon their confrontational attitude, and instead agree to find a middle path- even if this requires sacrificing certain portions of their claims.
All claimants can perhaps limit their claim to the areas of 200 nautical miles of the Exclusive Economic Zone in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Thus, by agreeing to such a proposal, the claimants can also reach an agreement to leave international waters for free navigation.
Another possible solution would be for the parties concerned to establish a common ownership of the disputed areas whereby all the revenues from the South China Sea are equitably shared among the littoral countries.
Perhaps another possibility would be for the disputing countries to specifically lay out their claims and allow a neutral party to adjudicate on the basis of the UNCLOS or any other relevant international laws.
Combination of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin against COVID-19 instead of HIV drugs
According to the new clinical management guidelines issued on 31st March, 2020, a combination of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) - used for treatment of auto-immune disorders, and azithromycin - the antibiotic has been recommended for use in severe patients.
The earlier guidelines, dated 17th March, 2020, which included use of Anti HIV drugs - Ritonavir and Lopinavir in high risk patients, now stand repealed.
No specific antivirals have been proven to be effective as per currently available data.
The azithromycin-hydroxychloroquine combination is part of an upcoming multi-country trial anchored by the World Health Organization to examine the efficacy of various drug combinations against COVID-19.
India has announced its decision to be part of the WHO global trials, which are also looking at these two drugs.
Portal for Stranded Foreigners in India
The Ministry of Tourism has come up with a portal titled ‘Stranded in India’ to disseminate information regarding the services that can be availed by foreign tourists who are stuck far away from their home land.
The Portal has information on the Ministry of External Affairs control centres and state-based/regional tourism support infrastructure. It also lists the COVID-19 helpline numbers for tourists.
On 19th March, 2020, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DCGA) had issued an advisory stating that no international commercial passenger flights will operate here from March 23 to March 29. The advisory was later extended and all international flight operations remain suspended till April 14.
The government has announced visa extensions for stranded foreigners till flight operations resume.
IITs Support to the Indian Government
The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has offered a range of inexpensive solutions developed by their faculty to assist the government in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
From low-cost ventilators and testing kits to personal protective equipment for health workers, the directors of IIT-Delhi, IIT-Guwahati, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Kanpur shared their institute’s work on containing the spread of the virus with the Government.
The institutions have also sought the government’s assistance in facilitating tie-up with Public Sector Units (PSUs) to scale up production of prototypes and to mitigate difficulties faced in procuring raw material because of the lockdown.
Example: IIT-Guwahati has offered to pitch in with its 3D-printed full-face shield and headgear for health workers, robotic cart to deliver food to isolation wards and high-grade sanitiser. It needs the government’s help to tie up with a PSU for large-scale manufacturing.
Indian Institutes of Technology are apex institutions for engineering education and research. At present, there are twenty three Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
All are governed by the Institutes of Technology Act, 1961 which has declared them as "Institutions of national importance", and lays down their powers, duties, framework for governance etc.
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared Covid-19 an orphan disease, or a rare disease.
The FDA granted Gilead Sciences orphan drug status for its antiviral drug, Remdesivir, on March 23, 2020.
Originally developed to treat Ebola, the drug is now being tested for treating COVID-19. Clinical trials are already in Phase III.
But on March 25 Gilead announced that it had submitted a request to the FDA to remove its orphan drug designation for Remdesivir.
Earlier, Gilead had sought the orphan status to the Remdesivir drug to expedite approval of the drug. However, advocates for global access to medicines, rejected the company’s argument.
Gilead’s exorbitant pricing of its drug to treat hepatitis C and its drug to treat HIV also attracted attention in the past.
In recent years, drug companies have been accused of exploiting the law to reap profits, in sales.
Orphan Drug Act, 1983
Rare diseases became known as orphan diseases because drug companies were not interested in adopting them to develop treatments.
In the U.S., under the Orphan Drug Act, companies are provided incentives to develop therapies, or orphan drugs, for rare diseases.
The Act allows seven years of market exclusivity and financial incentives to innovators of these drugs. As a result, orphan drugs are often exorbitantly priced.
Privileges under the Act may be conferred to companies for drugs to treat a disease that affect less than 200,000 people in the U.S., or for a disease that affects more than 200,000 people but for which there is no hope of recovering R & D costs.
The idea is that without these incentives, companies would find it difficult to recover their R&D costs given the small number of people suffering from the rare disease.
Covid-19 not a Rare Disease: The Orphan Drug Act applies to a potential drug for COVID-19, which is anything but a rare disease, with 800,049 confirmed cases across the world.
Paradox: The U.S. FDA conferred the status of an orphan drug on Remdesivir proposed to treat COVID-19 a pandemic.
Had Gilead not sought that orphan drug status be rescinded, generic manufacturers would not have been able to market a drug to treat COVID-19 with the same active ingredient till the seven-year period of market exclusivity had ended.
This would have given Gilead free rein on pricing and licensing which would have had disastrous consequences on the healthcare system.
However, orphan drug status of Remdesivir would have no impact on India as Gilead Sciences holds patents in India and patents are open to challenge.
As far as its patent rights are concerned, Indian law permits the government to issue a compulsory licence in certain circumstances of a public health crisis under Section 92 of the Patents Act.
This would allow third parties to manufacture a patented drug without permission of the patent holder.
National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, 2017
The policy highlights the measures and steps, both in the short as well as in the long term, that need to be taken to deal comprehensively with rare diseases.
The policy intends to constitute an Inter-ministerial Consultative Committee to coordinate and steer the initiatives of different ministries and departments on rare diseases.
It also mentions the creation of a corpus fund at Central and State level for funding treatment of rare diseases.
The policy aims to create a patient registry for diseases housed in Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
However, recognizing the higher cost of treatment for rare diseases, the policy also seeks to strike a balance between access to treatment and health system sustainability.
It also aims to create awareness among health professionals, families of patients and the public in general, about rare diseases.
A rare disease is a health condition of low prevalence that affects a small number of people compared with other prevalent diseases in the general population.
There is no universally accepted definition of rare diseases and the definitions usually vary across different countries.
Though rare diseases are of low prevalence and individually rare, collectively they affect a considerable proportion of the population.
80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin and hence disproportionately impact children.
In India there are 56-72 million people affected by rare diseases.
There is also a demand for the reformulation of National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, 2017.
The meaning of Globalisation is usually interpreted to indicate the integration of the economy of the nation with the world economy, it is a multifaceted aspect. It is a result of the collection of multiple strategies that are directed at transforming the world towards greater interdependence and integration. It includes the creation of networks and pursuits transforming social, economic and geographical barriers. Globalisation tries to build links in such a way that the events in India can be determined by events happening distances away.
To put it in other words, Globalisation is the method of interaction and union among people, corporations and governments universally.
Effect of Globalisation in India
India is one of the countries that succeeded significantly after the initiation and implementation of Globalisation. The growth of foreign investment in the field of corporate, retail, and the scientific sector is enormous in the country. It also had a tremendous impact on the social, monetary, cultural, and political area. In recent year, Globalisation has increased due to improvements in transportation and information technology. With the improved global synergies comes the growth of global trade, doctrines and culture.
It refers to the economic,social and political integration of nations. It entails the spread of products, technology, information and jobs across national borders and cultures.
In economic terms, it describes an interdependence of nations around the globe, fostered through free trade.
Globalisation can be further divided into subcategories based on its time frame and focus areas:
It was pre-World War I globalization, which was launched by a historic drop in trade costs.
This globalization came with almost no government support and was without global governance.
It is the post-World War II phase where trade in goods was combined with complimentary domestic policies.
The market was in charge of efficiency while the government was in charge of justice.
It saw the establishment of institute-based, rule-based international governance, specifically the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organisation (WTO, earlier GATT), International Labor Organization (ILO) etc.
It created a new world of manufacturing in which high-tech was combined with low wages.
This was achieved through establishment of global supply chains as factories crossed international borders.
It was variously called New globalization, Hyper globalization, Global value chain evolution.
It is the latest stage of globalization which involves cutting-edge new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) that powers forward with the explosion of information technology.
These technologies shrink distances, open up borders and minds and bring people all across the globe closer together.
Covid-19 and Globalisation
Global leaders have reached this consensus that the pandemicCovid-19 and the crisis it has generated is a turning point in modern history.
The crisis offers the world an opportunity to forge a new human-centric concept of globalisation.
The rapid worldwide spread of Covid-19 has a lot to do with the fallout of globalisation, including the travel industry, tourism and the neoliberal attack on universal health care which can be understood by the examples of South Korea, Iran and Sri Lanka.
The transmission of the Covid-19 in South Korea is related to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. This cult facilitated the transmission of the disease from Wuhan to South Korea because of frequent travel among its followers.
The coronavirus was introduced in Iran through globalisation-triggered international alignment and incubated through political and religious processes.
The economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. dominated western countries compelled Iran to develop ties with China. Which in turn, made the traders act as the carriers of the viruses.
The initial hub of disease transmission in Iran was Qom, a popular pilgrimage centre for Shiite Muslims from where it reached the Iranian Parliament, having strong ties with Qom.
Sri Lanka & India:
Here the onset of the Covid-19 has a lot to do with tourism and labour migration, processes intimately connected with globalisation.
Both in Sri Lanka and India, the first cases were reported among foreign tourists from China and Italy respectively.
The tour guides became the first set of local people exposed to the disease triggering local transmissions.
Both Sri Lanka and Kerala in India have large portions of their labour force employed overseas.
Returnees from these overseas destinations have contributed to the upsurge in the Covid-19 epidemic in South Asian countries.
The quarantine and social distancing processes may not be totally effective in so far as the migrant workers and their families are often in between two states, experiencing difficulties at both ends.
Both migrant workers and tourist guides already experience discrimination of various kinds because of their occupations and the risks involved and the quarantine has added to their misery.
The world needs to think beyond social distancing and quarantining the affected people and places.
Broader and deeper issues like fallout from globalisation need to be analysed and questioned.
In the recent G20 video conference, Indian Prime Minister stressed the world leaders to look at humanitarian aspects to global challenges like pandemics, climate change and terrorism, not just economic ones.
The world needs to redefine the definition of globalisation and make it more human-centric instead of market and profit-oriented.
There is a need to devote special attention to the needs of less developed countries as they might not contribute to the causes but face the severity of the situation far worse.
Recently, the Government has hiked Ways and Means Advance (WMA) limit with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by 60%. (PT SHOT)
WMA limit is proposed to be revised to Rs 1.20 lakh crore and would be reviewed on a need basis (from Rs 75,000 crore last year).
This is to compensate for the cash flow mismatch in Financial Year (FY) 21 expected from higher spending to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Ways and Means Advance scheme
The Ways and Means Advances scheme was introduced in 1997.
The Ways and Means Advances scheme was introduced to meet mismatches in the receipts and payments of the government.
The government can avail of immediate cash from the RBI, if required. But it has to return the amount within 90 days. Interest is charged at the existing repo rate.
If the WMA exceeds 90 days, it would be treated as an overdraft (the interest rate on overdrafts is 2 percentage points more than the repo rate).
The limits for Ways and Means Advances are decided by the government and RBI mutually and revised periodically.
A higher limit provides the government flexibility to raise funds from RBI without borrowing them from the market.
The government has announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana) to provide income support, free food and other facilities to the poor to help them during the 21-day national lockdown.
The fundraising resources are not only from the market, but also from institutions such as the RBI.
The Budget 2020-21 has pegged the Centre’s net market borrowing, including government securities, treasury bills and post office life insurance fund at Rs 5.36 lakh crore.
Out of gross borrowings of Rs 7.8 lakh crore in FY21, the Centre has proposed to borrow Rs 4.88 lakh crore, or 62.56%, in the first half of the fiscal, as against 62.25% done in the previous fiscal.
In FY21, the Centre also plans to issue the Debt Exchange Traded Fund comprising government securities to widen the base of investors.
The novel coronavirus has a lipid envelope. Soap being a detergent destroys this envelope. The same is true for alcohol also.
Structure of Lipid Envelope:
SARS-CoV-2 particles, like other coronaviruses, are spherical and have proteins called spikes protruding from their surface.
These spikes latch onto human cells, then undergo a structural change that allows the viral membrane to fuse with the cell membrane. The viral genes can then enter the host cell to be copied, producing more viruses.
Recent work shows that, like the virus that caused the 2002 SARS outbreak, SARS-CoV-2 spikes bind to receptors on the human cell surface called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).
All of this is held together by a fatty layer, called an envelope.
Functioning of Alcohol in Sanitizers:
The Envelope layer is disrupted when it comes into contact with soap or a hand sanitiser with more than 60% alcohol.
Disruption of the envelope leads to the killing of the virus.
Handwashing for 20 seconds at least kills the virus.
Indian Government’s Move: The Government has notified hand sanitizers as an essential commodity under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.