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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

22 Sep, 2021

71 Min Read

Cyber Security

GS-III : Internal security Cyber Security

Cyber Security

  • Cybercrime is a crime that involves a computer and a network. The computer may have been used to commit the crime and in many cases, it is also the target. Cybercrime may threaten a person or a nation’s security and financial health. In a computing context, security includes both cyber security and physical security.
  • Currently, almost 70 categories of cyber security products have been identified. These include products used for data loss prevention, security analytics, big data analytics, web security, antivirus, mobile payments, mobile data protection, cloud security, spam-free email solutions, among others.

National Cyber Security Policy, 2013

  • In light of the growth of the IT sector in the country, the National Cyber Security Policy of India 2013 was announced by the Indian Government in 2013 yet its actual implementation is still missing. As a result fields like e-governance and e-commerce are still risky and may require cyber insurance in the near future.

Its important features include:

  • To build secure and resilient cyberspace.
  • Creating a secure cyber ecosystem, generate trust in IT transactions.
  • 24 x 7 NATIONAL CRITICAL INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION CENTER (NCIIPC)
  • Indigenous technological solutions (Chinese products and reliance on foreign software)
  • Testing of ICT products and certifying them. Validated products
  • Creating a workforce of 500,000 professionals in the field
  • Fiscal Benefits for the businessman who accepts standard IT practices, etc.

Countering cyber crimes is a coordinated effort on the part of several agencies in the Ministry of Home Affairs and in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

The law enforcement agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, The Intelligence Bureau, state police organizations and other specialised organizations such as the National Police Academy and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) are the prominent ones who tackle cyber crimes.

National Cyber Response Centre – Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERTIn)

  • CERT-In monitors Indian cyberspace and coordinates alerts and warnings of imminent attacks and detection of malicious attacks among public and private cyber users and organizations in the country.
  • It maintains a 24×7 operations centre and has working relations/collaborations and contacts with CERTs, all over the world; and Sectoral CERTs, public, private, academia, Internet Service Providers and vendors of Information Technology products in the country.

National Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIIPC)

  • NIIPC is a designated agency to protect the critical information infrastructure in the country.
  • It gathers intelligence and keeps a watch on emerging and imminent cyber threats in strategic sectors including National Defence.
  • They would prepare threat assessment reports and facilitate sharing of such information and analysis among members of the Intelligence, Defence and Law enforcement agencies with a view to protecting these agencies’ ability to collect, analyze and disseminate intelligence.

National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC)

  • National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) is an organisation of the Government of India created under Sec 70A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended 2008).
  • It is designated as the National Nodal Agency in respect of Critical Information Infrastructure Protection.
  • NCIIPC has broadly identified the following as ‘Critical Sectors’–
  1. Power & Energy
  2. Banking, Financial Services & Insurance
  3. Telecom
  4. Transport
  5. Government
  6. Strategic & Public Enterprises

Cyberdome Project (UPSC Mains)

  • Cyberdome, the hi-tech centre for cybersecurity being set up by the Kerala Police.
  • Cyberdome will be a hi-tech centre for cyber security. The project is worth Rs. 2 crore. The project is being established on the public-private partnership model with the technical support offered by IT companies.

Unique features of the project:

  • As many as 500 ethical hackers and cybersecurity experts would be involved in the project
  • It would have centres for social media awareness, protection of children on the Internet, Internet monitoring and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in service delivery.
  • It would also host an Anti-Cyber Terror Cell and a cybersecurity training unit.
  • It would be equipped with an automated crime intelligence-gathering unit and a unit for anti-piracy on the Internet.
  • It will have its server hosted at the State Data Centre. Software companies will provide technical support on a voluntary basis, develop software for the purpose, and supply technical manpower.
  • The station will be manned by police officers with IT-related qualifications. The Additional Director General of Police (Crimes) will be in charge of the project.
  • Cyberdome would be open to new models of partnership to find solutions to emerging threats and challenges.

Important functions:

  • It would work on the prevention of hacking and defacement of websites and child pornography.
  • It would have facilities to analyse Skype and VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls and deal with money laundering on the Internet. Policing the Dark Net would be another mandate of the Cyberdome.
  • Cyberdome would synergise its operations with the Computer Emergency Response Team-Kerala.

Source: PIB

Nagaland Issue

GS-III : Internal security Internal security

Nagaland Issue

Four years after the government inked the Naga peace accord in 2015, the Centre has now said that the process had almost concluded, despite the fact that the talks had hit a roadblock in their final stages.

Why is the Naga Peace talks being delayed?

It is mainly because of unrealistic demands. NSCN I-M has issued statements in the past claiming that it wanted a separate Constitution, flag and integration of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas under Nagalim (Greater Nagaland).

Government of India’s stand:

A mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement, including all the substantive issues and competencies, is ready for inking the final agreement. Respecting the Naga people’s wishes, the Government of India is determined to conclude the peace process without delay.

How old is the Naga political issue?

Pre-independence:

  1. The British annexed Assam in 1826, and in 1881, the Naga Hills too became part of British India. The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
  2. In 1946 came the Naga National Council (NNC), which declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947.
  3. The NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99 per cent” supported an “independent” Nagaland.

What are the Naga peace talks?

  • The talks seek to settle disputes that date back to colonial rule.
  • The Nagas are not a single tribe, but an ethnic community that comprises several tribes who live in the state of Nagaland and its neighbourhood
  • One key demand of Naga groups has been a Greater Nagalim that would cover not only the state of Nagaland but parts of neighbouring states, and even of Myanmar.

Rise of Naga nationalism

  • The British annexed Assam in 1826, in which they subsequently created the Naga Hills district and went on to extend its boundaries.
  • The assertion of Naga nationalism, which began during British rule, has continued after Independence, and even after Nagaland became a state.
  • Along the way, the unresolved issues gave rise to decades of insurgency that claimed thousands of lives, including of civilians.

How has the Naga assertion played out historically?

  • The earliest sign of Naga resistance dates back to 1918, with the formation of the Naga Club.
  • In 1929, the Club famously told the Simon Commission “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
  • In 1946, A Z Phizo formed the Naga National Council (NNC), which declared Naga independence on August 14, 1947, and then, in 1951, claimed to have conducted a referendum.
  • The referendum got an overwhelming majority in support of an independent Naga state.
  • By the early 1950s, the NNC had taken up arms and gone underground.
  • The NNC split in 1975, the breakaway group being the NSCN, which split further in later years, most prominently into the NSCN(I-M) and NSCN (Khaplang) in 1988.

And how have the peace talks played out in recent years?

Before the ongoing talks, which followed a framework agreement in 2015, there were two other agreements between Naga groups and the Centre.

1975:

  • A peace accord was signed in Shillong in which the NNC leadership agreed to give up arms.
  • Several NNC leaders, including Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang refused to accept the agreement and broke away to form the NSCN.
  • In 1988 came another split, with Khaplang breaking away to form the NSCN(K) while Isak and Muivah headed the NSCN(I-M).

1997:

  • The NSCN(I-M ) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1997, preceded by rounds of talks since 1995.
  • The key agreement was that there would be no counter-insurgency offensive against the NSCN(I-M), who in turn would not attack Indian forces.
  • The NSCN(I-M) had then announced to “every citizen of Nagalim wherever they may be”, that a ceasefire agreement was entered into between India and the outfit to bring about a lasting political solution.

2015:

  • In August that year, the Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN(I-M).
  • PM Modi described it as a “historic agreement” towards settling the “oldest insurgency” in India. This set the stage for the ongoing peace talks.
  • In 2017, six other Naga armed outfits under the banned of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) joined the talks.
  • Today, Muivah remains the senior-most Naga rebel leader. Isak died in 2016. In the NSCN(-K), its leader Khaplang died in 2018.

What was in the framework agreement?

  • The government has not yet spelt out the details in public.
  • Following the agreement, the government had said in a press statement: “The Government of India recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations.
  • The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.
  • On the other hand, the NSCN(I-M) issued a statement earlier this year which said that Nagaland State does and will not represent the national decision of the Naga people.
  • The statement was in opposition the proposal for a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN) in the state of Nagaland.

Where does the territorial demand currently stand?

  • The accord being finalised “does not change the boundary of states; provides autonomous Naga territorial councils for Arunachal and Manipur; a common cultural body for Nagas across states.
  • It provides for specific institutions for state’s development, integration and rehabilitation of non-state Naga militia and the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
  • The map of Greater Nagalim in the NSCN(IM) vision, on the other hand, covers a 1,20,000 sq km sprawl across the Northeast and Myanmar — the area of Nagaland state itself is only 16,527 sq km, a fraction of this vision.
  • Amid the anxiety this has caused among citizens in neighbouring states, state governments have assured them that their respective states’ territorial integrity would not be compromised.

What are the other issues?

  • The government and the NSCN(I-M) have failed to agree on issues relating to a separate Naga flag and a constitution.
  • In its latest statement, the NSCN(I-M) has said it will not budge from the demand for the flag and the constitution — and that it is looking for a lasting solution.
  • However the NSCN(I-M) has adopted a procrastinating attitude to delay the settlement raising the contentious symbolic issues of separate Naga national flag and constitution.

Where could the disagreement lead to?

  • The statement from the Governor’s office has given rise to speculation that the government is ready to sign a final peace agreement with other groups without the NSCN(I-M), the largest group.
  • Civil society groups in Nagaland are divided in their opinion.
  • Some have said the talks should be wrapped up with whatever is offered now and keep other issues open for later negotiations.
  • Others believe all issues should be settled and the NSCN(I-M) should be on board, even if it takes longer than the deadline.

Source: TH

India now has 10 Blue Flag beaches

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Conservation

India now has 10 Blue Flag beaches

In yet another recognition of India’s commitment to protect and conserve the pristine coastal and marine ecosystems through holistic management of the resources the globally recognized and the coveted International eco-label "Blue Flag”, has been accorded the Blue Flag Certification for 2 new beaches this year –Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Puducherry beaches.

What are Blue Flag beaches?

  • Blue Flag certification is a globally recognised eco-label accorded by "Foundation for Environment Education in Denmark" based on 33 stringent criteria.
  • Blue Flag for Beach Cleanup started in 1985 with the objective to enhance standards of cleanliness, upkeep & basic amenities at beaches.
  • Each state and UT will nominate a beach to be funded by Integrated Coastal Management Programme.
  • They must comply with 33 conditions related to Environment and Tourism.
  • Spain tops the list followed by Greece, France. Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and SE Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
  • Asia's 1st certificate went to Odisha - Chandrabhaga Beach.
  • 12 beaches were considered: Shivrajpur (GJ); Bhogave (MH); Ghoghla (Diu); Miramar (Goa); Kasargod and Padubidri (Karnataka); Kappad (Kerala); Eden (Puducherry); Mahabalipuram (TN); Rushikonda (AP); Golden (Odisha) and Radhanagar (A&N).

  • Foundation for Environment Education in Denmark (FEE) which accords the globally recognized eco-label - Blue Flag certification, has also given re-certification for 8 nominated beaches Shivrajpur-Gujarat, Ghoghla-Diu, Kasarkod and Padubidri-Karnataka, Kappad-Kerala, Rushikonda- Andhra Pradesh, Golden-Odisha and Radhanagar- Andaman and Nicobar, which were awarded the Blue Flag certificate last year.

Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services (BEAMS)

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in its pursuit of “Sustainable Development” of the coastal regions of India embarked upon a highly acclaimed & flagship program Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services (BEAMS) which is one of the initiatives under ICZM approach that the MoEF&CC has undertaken for the sustainable development of coastal regions of India, with a prime objective to protect and conserve the pristine coastal and marine ecosystems through holistic management of the resources.
  • This was aimed at achieving the globally recognized and coveted International eco-label "Blue Flag” , accorded by the International Jury comprising of members from IUCN, UNWTO,UNEP, UNESCO etc.
  • FEE Denmark conduct regular monitoring & audits for strict compliance of the 33 criteria at all times.
  • A waving “Blue Flag” is an indication of 100% compliance to these 33 stringent criteria and sound health of the beach.
  • The objective of BEAMS program is to abate pollution in coastal waters, promote sustainable development of beach facilities, protect & conserve coastal ecosystems & natural resources, and seriously challenge local authorities & stakeholders to strive and maintain high standards of cleanliness, hygiene & safety for beachgoers in accordance with coastal environment & regulations.

In the last 3 years or so, our Ministry have achieved commendable results in environmental management of these 10 beaches and some of them are enumerated below:

  • Sand dune restoration and nourishment of 95,000 Sqm (approx.) with native plantation.
  • Reduction in marine litter by 85 % and 78% in marine plastic in last 3 years.
  • Scientific & responsible disposal of 750 tonnes of marine litter.
  • Improvement in cleanliness level from “C” (poor) to “A++(outstanding) through scientific measurement system
  • Saving of 1100 ML/year of municipal water through recycling
  • 3 years’ database on regular testing of bathing water quality (physical, chemical and biological contamination) and health risk monitoring.
  • Approx. 1,25,000 beach goers are educated for responsible behaviour in the beaches
  • Increase in footfall for recreation activities by approx. 80% leading to economic development.
  • Alternate livelihood opportunities for 500 fishermen families through pollution abatement, safety & services.

CRZ rules eased for Blue Flag beaches

  • Blue Flag beach certification is accorded by Denmark based Foundation for Environment Eduation. It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987 and in areas outside Europe since 2001 when South Africa joined.
  • It has 33 stringent criteria under 4 major heads –
  1. Environment Education and Information.
  2. Bathing Water Quality
  3. Environment Management and Conservation and
  4. Safety and Services.
  • This beach is an eco tourism model and marks out beaches as providing tourists and beachgoers - clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities, a safe and healthy environment and sustainable development of that area. It requires beaches to create certain infrastructure like portable toilet blocks, grey water treatment plants, solar power plant, seating facilities, CCTV surveillance.
  • Now CRZ rules are eased for Blue Flag beaches. Activities are permitted in CRZ including Islands, subject to maintaining a minimum distance of 10 m from the High Tide Line. States can construct infrastructure to enable International recognition. It is based on Cleanliness, and Environment propriety.

Source: PIB

K Kasturirangan panel for National Curriculum Framework (NCF)

GS-III : Economic Issues Education

K Kasturirangan panel for National Curriculum Framework (NCF)

  • The Centre has started the process to revise school textbooks by appointing former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan as the head of a 12-member steering committee responsible for developing a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF).
  • Dr. Kasturirangan also chaired the drafting committee for the National Education Policy, 2020 which recommended the development of a new NCF.
  • The steering committee has been given a tenure of three years to complete its task.
  • The last such framework was developed in 2005.
  • It is meant to be a guiding document for the development of textbooks, syllabi and teaching practices in schools across the country. The subsequent revision of textbooks by the National Council of Educational Research and Training will draw from the new NCF.
  • In fact, the steering committee will develop four such frameworks, one each to guide the curriculum of school education, teacher education, early childhood education and adult education.
  • Apart from Dr. Kasturirangan, others on the panel who had also helped draft the NEP include former Karnataka Knowledge Commission Member Secretary M.K. Sridhar and the Central Tribal University of Andhra Pradesh Vice-Chancellor T.V. Kattimani.
  • Other academics on the steering committee include Jamia Millia Islamia Vice-Chancellor Najma Akhtar, Central University of Punjab Chancellor Jagbir Singh, and Manjul Bhargava, an American mathematician of Indian origin.
  • Padma Shri awardee Michel Danino, an Indian of French origin who authored a book identifying the legendary Saraswati river with a current water body, is also on the steering committee along with National Book Trust Chairman Govind Prasad Sharma and National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration Chancellor Mahesh Chandra Pant. Indian Institute of Management-Jammu Chairman Milind Kamble and Dhir Jhingran and Shankar Maruwada from the non-profit sector are also part of the panel.

Source: TH

ADB cuts India’s GDP growth forecast in 2021-22 to 10%

GS-II : Important reports Important reports

ADB cuts India’s GDP growth forecast in 2021-22 to 10%

  • The Asian Development Bank has cut its forecast for India’s GDP growth in 2021-22 to 10%, from 11% projected earlier, with downside risks dominating the economic outlook. The ADB also sees rising input costs fuelling inflation to a faster 5.5% pace than the 5.2% previously estimated.
  • While the COVID-19 second wave had disrupted the recovery since the ADB’s April forecast for 11% growth, the Bank expects the economy to ‘rebound strongly in the remaining three quarters and grow by 10% in the full fiscal year before moderating to 7.5%’ in 2022-23.
  • Still, the risks to the outlook tilt to the downside and depend mainly on the evolution of the pandemic, the ADB’s director of macroeconomic research Abdul Abiad told The Hindu.
  • “The primary risks are centred around the pandemic,” said Dr. Abiad. “Until we get to the point that we have really widespread vaccination, countries still are at risk of renewed outbreaks as the Delta variant is much more infectious. So the main risk weighing on the outlook is if vaccination hasn’t progressed widely, the health system gets strained and the government needs to put restrictions on mobility again,” he explained.
  • That the second wave accelerated very rapidly but also declined very rapidly, allowing the economy to reopen was another key factor behind ADB’s assessment, and was backed by the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) readings that had ‘switched to highly positive for India’, he pointed out.
  • “Because consumption will recover only gradually, government spending and exports will contribute more to this year’s growth than they did in the previous fiscal year,” the ADB said in an update to its Asian Development Outlook for 2021, emphasising that the healthy trend in export orders suggested that ‘strong external demand’ had helped cushion the impact of the second wave on the economy.
  • Blaming the uptick in India’s inflation on rising global oil prices and higher duties on gasoline and diesel fuel, along with double-digit consumer price inflation for pulses and vegetable oil, the ADB said a deficient monsoon could augur further inflationary pressure.
  • “Rising prices for oil and other commodities will further increase input and transportation costs for producers, which they will pass on to consumers. These push factors and the second-round effects of persistently high headline inflation from last year will keep core inflation elevated,” it warned.

Source: PIB

South China Sea Issue

GS-II : International Relations South China Sea

South China Sea Issue

About South China Sea

  • The South China Sea is an arm of the 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.

Importance of South China Sea

  • 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 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 a global consequences, 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 South China Sea 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 kilometres south and east of its southerly Hainan Island, covering almost 90% of the South China Sea.
  • After the 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 this, there was no headway in the dispute resolution.

Why is the South China Sea 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) have 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 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 are undertaken in the region:

  • Between China and the Philippines, the conflict centres around the Scarborough Shoal. The Scarborough Shoal is essentially a triangle-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 appear to be a factor fuelling its assertion in the 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 defence 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, and 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.

India's Stand on South China Sea

  • 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 the 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.

Source: TH

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