On 12 July, Associate Professor Christopher Roberts, who is currently in the midst of five-week Leader’s Fellowship at the Australia-India Institute in New Delhi, provided a seminar at the India Council on World Affairs titled: ‘Chinese Behaviour and Actions in South China Sea: Implications for India, Australia, and the Region’. The seminar was jointly hosted by the Australia-India Institute and the Institute of Chinese studies.
Christopher highlighted how China’s claims in the South China Sea conflict with the territorial rights of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He further demonstrated that, as has been determined by the binding Arbitral Tribunal Ruling in July 2016, China’s actions (including the large-scale construction of artificial islands and their subsequent militarisation) have infringed on the ‘sovereign rights’ of claimant states such as the Philippines. Nonetheless, with the apparent assumption that ‘might makes right’, Beijing completely flouted the binding July 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling. While there are no simple solutions, these alarming developments do demonstrate the need for stronger dialogue and cooperation between regional like-minded ‘stabiliser’ (i.e. rules based) states. The seminar concluded by addressing just how far India and Australia could advance their bilateral cooperation and the potential areas where they could collaborate in the founding of new avenues for multilateral dialogue (and, eventually), cooperation to respond to future geo-strategic developments.