Sea verdict: India has played it safe

When it came, the verdict surprised most observers of international relations: the international arbitral tribunal, under the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, ruled unanimously in favour of the Philippines – the complainant which had alleged that China’s actions and claims in the South China Sea violated its sovereignty.  New Delhi has done well not to comment on the tribunal’s verdict, stating that it is “studying the matter”. It is highly likely though, that our officials would be quietly clicking “Like” on (if there was one) the Facebook post of the PCA announcing the verdict.

Because India is neither a disputant nor an “external” power in the conflict, it will be courted by both sides: China will want it to keep out of the matter, while Beijing’s opponents would want it to play an active role in maintaining the maritime balance of power in the region. Given that China is unlikely to diminish its role in India’s neighbourhood, it is in India’s interests to up its engagement in China’s. 

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