India has started monitoring current developments in the South China Sea, as China deployed missiles in the region on Wednesday evening.
Beijing deployed a battery of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island under its control in the South China Sea, thus, escalating tension in the area. The Asian giant made the move soon after US President Barack Obama attended a summit with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Many countries of the 10-member bloc are in dispute with China over the ownership of some islands in the region.
Senior spokesperson of the Taiwanese Defence Ministry Major General David Lo condemned the move, saying that Beijing set up the missile system on Woody Island. David told the local media in Taipei that his country is worried because these are resource-rich islands, which have huge reserves of natural gas and oil. He also said that the South China Sea is crucial to world trade, because trade worth USD 5 trillion pass through it.
However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended Beijing’s move, saying that his country has built limited and necessary self-defence facilities on these islands and reefs and also stationed some Army personnel, as it has the right to self-protection. Wang advised the Western media to focus on lighthouses built by China in the region to assist navigation.
Although India admitted that the deployment of missiles by China on the disputed island is not at all a surprise move, it said that militarisation of the region is definitely a cause of concern. A senior External Affairs Ministry official explained that India is not directly involved in the South China Sea dispute, but the South Asian nation has interests in oil blocks that Vietnam has allowed it to explore. In the past, China had opposed India’s decision to undertake oil exploration off Vietnam’s coast, claiming that the area falls within the disputed area of the South China Sea.
As India maintains cordial relations with all the ASEAN countries, some of these countries want New Delhi to get involved in the dispute. They believe that India is the only country in the region that can counter China and help them in resolving the issue with the Asian power through peaceful negotiations.
India has also a business interest in the region, as around 50% of its trade passes through the Straight of Malacca, which is a part of the South China Sea. As far as the South China Sea is concerned, China’s claims are in conflict with those of Vietnam, Brunei, The Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan. China is also involved in an island dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.