Change of stand? In­dia & Ja­pan skip SCS is­sue

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - | POLITICS POLICY -

New Delhi: While a lot of what In­dia and Ja­pan dis­cussed at the Modi-Abe sum­mit was in­tended to ad­dress Chi­nese ex­pan­sion­ism in the form of its OBOR (One Belt One Road) ini­tia­tive, the two coun­tries also al­lowed a con­ces­sion to Bei­jing by avoid­ing any ex­plicit men­tion of South China Sea (SCS).

This is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant as the pre­vi­ous two sum­mit dec­la­ra­tions specif­i­cally re­ferred to SCS while reaf­firm­ing com­mit­ment to free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight.

This time though the suc­cess­ful res­o­lu­tion to the Dok­lam dis­pute, which saw China agree­ing to In­dia’s de­mand to stop road con­struc­tion to where Bei­jing be­lieves the In­dia-Bhutan-China tri-junc­tion is, and Ja­pan’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with North Korea meant a more re­strained re­sponse in their joint state­ment to the se­cu­rity chal­lenge in SCS.

The Modi govern­ment in­tro­duced ex­plicit men­tions of SCS in its joint dec­la­ra­tions, first with the US in 2014, in line with a more as­sertive Act East pol­icy and to main­tain a de­lib­er­ate am­bi­gu­ity in its po­si­tion on China’s mar­itime ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes with its neigh­bours. This was also in keep­ing with ex­hor­ta­tions by sev­eral Asean na­tions for In­dia to in­crease its pro­file in the re­gion.

The omis­sion of SCS may also partly have re­sulted from what many see as the in­dif­fer­ence of the US un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to the sit­u­a­tion in SCS . As strate­gic af­fairs ex­pert Brahma Chel­laney says, In­dia and Ja- pan are now faced with very dif­fi­cult choices on SCS with Trump ef­fec­tively giv­ing Bei­jing a “free pass” to act in what­ever man­ner it wants to.

“The omis­sion is es­pe­cially sig­nif­i­cant given the ref­er­ence to the SCS in the 2015 and 2016 joint state­ments. In­dia and Ja­pan can­not ig­nore the fact that the US has no clear pol­icy on SCS,” says Chel­laney. There is, how­ever, a view that North Korea’s provo­ca­tions may force Trump to re­think his op­tions.

To be sure, the US is now said to be plan­ning reg­u­lar free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion op­er­a­tions in SCS. How­ever, re­ports from South­east Asia sug­gest that, with Trump and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity fo­cused on North Korea, China is qui­etly con­sol­i­dat­ing its ter­ri­to­rial claims in SCS.

Ac­cord­ing to Chel­laney, un­der Obama, the US al­lowed China to change the sta­tus quo by force in the SCS with­out in­cur­ring any in­ter­na­tional costs, thereby em­bold­en­ing Chi­nese ac­tions in the Hi­malayas and the East China Sea, and Trump has shown no in­cli­na­tion to chal­lenge Bei­jing in SCS.

“Un­der Trump, the US has no de­sire to seek a re­turn to sta­tus quo ante in the SCS. As a re­sult, China is con­sol­i­dat­ing its po­si­tion in the SCS, even as the US sym­bol­i­cally un­der­takes free­do­mof-nav­i­ga­tion op­er­a­tions in the re­gion,” he says.

There was a men­tion of UNCLOS in the 2017 In­di­aJa­pan joint state­ment for sure and the same para­graph also re­it­er­ated the de­ter­mi­na­tion to work to­gether for sta­bil­ity, peace and de­vel­op­ment in the Indo-Pa­cific. It’s still a di­lu­tion though of the 2016 doc­u­ment which said the two PMs “re­gard­ing the South China Sea” stressed the im­por­tance of re­solv­ing the dis­putes by peace­ful means, in ac­cor­dance with uni­ver­sally recog­nised prin­ci­ples of in­ter­na­tional law in­clud­ing the UNCLOS. This time for­eign sec­re­tary S Jais­hankar said the Indo-Pa­cific ref­er­ence ad­dressed the is­sue with­out men­tional spe­cific ge­ogra­phies.

The changes to the texts in­clude up­dates, corrections and ad­di­tions. The up­dates will take care of old statis­tics, eco­nomic data, etc, while the ad­di­tions will in­tro­duce top­ics like de­mon­eti­sa­tion, Beti Bachao Beti Pad­hao and Swach­hta. How­ever, more than half of the changes in­volve cor­rec­tion of spell­ing er­rors and sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of lan­guage. “Qual­ity-wise also we use 80gsm (grams per square me­tre) pa­per, which is higher than pri­vate and other state pub­lish­ers,” NCERT di­rec­tor Hrushikesh Se­na­p­aty said.

The Coun­cil has al­ready got or­ders for more than 2 crore books on its web­site for next year, as against a to­tal print run of 4.63 crore books for the 2017 ses­sion.

Se­na­p­aty said they an­tic­i­pate a much higher de­mand: “As­sum­ing all the CBSE schools go for the books, we ex­pect a de­mand of ap­prox­i­mately 13 crore this year.” NCERT has in­creased the num­ber of its print­ers and ven­dors to ful­fil the higher de­mand.

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