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'South China Sea: Convergence of U.S.-India interests' discussion led by  Prof. Peter Dutt

C3S No. 0099/2016

Professor Peter Dutton of China Maritime Studies Institute, Naval War College, USA interacts with participants from Chennai and Delhi on 13th July 2016

Chennai Centre for China Studies along with the USCG and the Center for Asia Studies Chennai conducted an interaction with  Professor Peter Dutton of Naval War College via skype on 13th evening at Athena Infonomics. The interaction  was scheduled following the verdict by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague which upheld the appeal by Phillipines. The speaker Professor Dutton and the moderator Commodore RS Vasan were introduced by Andea de Arment, CAO of the US Consul General .

The event  was well attended with participants from the Indian Coast Guard, Academia, University of Madras, Media representatives both in Chennai and Delhi , think tank representatives and veterans from the Navy and the Army.

Commodore RS Vasan Director Chennai Centre for China Studies and Head Strategy and Security Studies at the Center for Asia Studies after briefly explaining the situation post 12th July  set the scene  and indicated that the interaction will focus on the impact of the verdict, issues of India-US strategic convergence in South China Sea, Response of disputants  post rejection by China  of the verdict, possible options for China itself and related issues.

Professor Dutton thereafter brought out the background and also the legal issues related to the verdict. Once and for all the issue of historical claims  of China has been put to rest and the provisions of United Convention on the Laws of the Seas have been upheld. He also observerd that Phillipines played its cards well and with out bringing the dispute parse,  but concentrated in laying bare the hollowness of the Chinese claims based on historicity and unauthorised construction of artificial Islands. Also, in accordance with the UNCLOS it was clear that the rocks and reefs  will not provide the Exclusive Economic Zone which China wanted to use for harnessing the living and non living resources. The issue of extensive damage caused to the coral reefs in the process of reclamation has also drawn the attention of the world which now looks at this wanton destruction of the marine environment by China.

During the extensive   video interaction with the participants both from Chennai and Delhi, issues related to the possible responses of China vis-a-vis its neighbours was discussed. Professor Dutton felt that China though has rejected the verdict will be cautious in its approach in the South China Sea with a weakened position.  He also felt that the verdict has done enough to get China and Phillipines to get in to a dialogue mode particularly since the new President in Phillipines is looking for obtaining some  investments and leverages through this verdict.

On whether China could face some economic sanctions, the Professor while not ruling out this option was of the view that it would be better to wait and watch  the actions of China as economic sanctions may not work in the manner intended. Also it was clear though China was angry and upset with this verdict, it has no choice but to start working to contain the negative fall out of this verdict. China may have to be helped in the process of coming to terms with the verdict and honouring it.

On the possibility of promulgation of Air Defence Identification Zone, the speaker said it could escalate tensions in the region. He also clarified that though USA is yet to ratify the UNCLOS, as a signatory it has always upheld  the provisions and it would be a matter of time before the UNCLOS is ratified.  Of all the neighbours, it was agreed that Vietnam which readily welcomed the verdict could now engage with India for furthering its energy security ambitions in its EEZ. Whether it would have a collective impact on the ASEAN is something that needs to be watched though the smaller neighbours would now be encouraged with the verdict in favour of another small nation.

The timely  interaction came to a conclusion with the speaker being applauded by the  participants and thanked by Commodore RS Vasan.

The Times of India also carried a report on the event this morning vide page 6 of e paper at link

Find below the C3S Report on the event,  compiled by Vithiyapathy Purushothaman, Research Officer at C3S and Lakshya Anand, Intern at C3S.

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