The Nine-dash Line

Source: The Hindu

What is the ‘nine-dash’ line?

The ‘nine-dash line’ stretches hundreds of kilometers south and east of its southerly Hainan Island, covering the strategic Paracel and Spratly island chains. China lays its claims on these islands by citing 2,000 years of history when the two island chains were regarded as its integral parts.

But Vietnam rejects the Chinese argument, justifying its own claims, on the basis of written records, which, in its view, establishes its administration over the area since the 17th century. Beijing and Manila clash on account of their dispute over the jurisdiction of the Scarborough shoal, which is 160 kilometres from the Philippines.

History behind the Nine-Dash line

There are a few hundred small islands in the South China Sea (SCS), a part of the Pacific Ocean. Some of the main ones are Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal — the bone of contention between China and the Philippines.

China claims most of these islands as its own. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims. China has said it will not permit other nations to infringe on what it considers its sovereign rights in the strategically vital area.

The U.S. has no claim in the South China Sea, but has been highly critical of China’s assertiveness and says it will protect freedom of navigation.

China laid claim to the SCS back in 1947. It demarcated its claims with a U-shaped line made up of eleven dashes on a map, covering most of the area.

The Communist Party, which took over in 1949, removed the Gulf of Tonkin portion in 1953, erasing two of the dashes to make it a nine-dash line.

Back in 2013, the Philippines raised the dispute with China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), saying China’s claims violated Philippines’ sovereignty under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A five-member panel of international legal experts was appointed in June 2013 to hear the case. The result of this arbitration was announced on July 12, 2016, with the panel saying China had no “historic rights” over the SCS.

Because PCA is an intergovernmental organisation and not a ‘court’, hence the ruling is not binding. China has swiftly rejected the ruling, saying it was null and void and that Beijing would not accept it.

What is India’s stance?

India follows the policy of not involving in disputes between sovereign nations. India, too, has commercial interest in the region. Vietnam has offered India seven oil blocks in its territory of SCS, a move that didn’t get down well with China.

India has signed energy deals with Brunei too.

Read the full article here.

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