- The United States and India have expressed their anticipation for a stronger partnership in the South China Sea, aiming to address the challenges posed by China’s coercive actions in the contested waters.
- The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), comprising the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia, highlights the shared commitment of these nations to uphold international law and the maritime rules-based order, emphasizing the importance of cooperation in countering China’s influence.
- While tensions remain high in the South China Sea, the United States and India’s strengthened alliance signifies their dedication to building the capabilities of allies and partners, preventing larger countries from intimidating smaller ones, and ensuring a peaceful and stable world in the region
The recent declaration of a stronger partnership between the United States and India in the South China Sea marks a significant development in the ongoing territorial disputes in the region. As the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, emphasized during a speech at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, the United States anticipates an enhanced alliance with India in addressing the challenges posed by China’s coercive actions in the contested waters.
The growing collaboration among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), which includes the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia, underscores the shared commitment to upholding international law and the maritime rules-based order. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent state visit to Washington further solidified the notion that both nations are among the closest allies globally.
Kritenbrink stressed the U.S.’s focus on building the capabilities of its allies, partners, and like-minded nations that share the vision of a peaceful and stable world. In this regard, he highlighted India’s expanding role in the South China Sea and its willingness to cooperate with the United States. Such collaboration is crucial in preventing larger countries from intimidating smaller ones, as witnessed in China’s disputes with other claimants in the region.
The South China Sea remains a hotbed of tension due to its significance as a vital trade route facilitating over $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce. China’s expansive claims over almost the entire sea and its insistence that regional countries resolve disputes among themselves without outside interference have created a volatile situation.
In response to Kritenbrink’s remarks, the Chinese embassy in Washington defended China’s position in the South China Sea, citing historical and legal grounds for its claims. The embassy spokesperson called on the United States, a non-party to the disputes, to refrain from conducting military operations in the region and suggested that halting reconnaissance operations against China would contribute to stability.
While India is not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, it has demonstrated its intention to play a more significant role in countering China through strengthened security ties in the region. India’s navy recently announced the gifting of an active-duty missile corvette to Vietnam, signaling its commitment to supporting countries facing Chinese coercion.
Kritenbrink highlighted China’s “unsafe maneuvers” within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, particularly near oil and gas installations. These provocative actions not only escalate risks for businesses but also create an unfair playing field, eliminating competition and allowing China’s state-owned firms to pursue joint development deals unimpeded.
The United States has consistently sought to establish direct military-to-military contact with China to prevent unintended conflicts resulting from misunderstandings. However, China’s reluctance to engage in such communication has hindered progress in reducing tensions. As China’s actions in the South China Sea continue to raise concerns among regional and global actors, the need for open dialogue and cooperation becomes increasingly imperative.
The U.S.-India partnership in the South China Sea holds great promise for promoting stability, upholding international law, and safeguarding the rights of smaller nations. By actively engaging with allies and partners, the United States can counter China’s coercion and assert its commitment to a rules-based international order. As tensions persist in the region, it is essential for nations to collaborate and maintain a united front to ensure the peace and security of the South China Sea and its surrounding areas.