The Indian Navy revealed recently that one of its vessels, the amphibious assault ship INS Airavat, was hailed by a Chinese naval officer demanding to know why it was in Chinese territory ― while it was actually off the Vietnamese coast heading for the Vietnamese port of Haiphong.
And it was reported that a Chinese spy ship was discovered in India’s Andaman Islands earlier this year.
A quarter of a world away, in the eastern Mediterranean, the consequences of Israel’s seizure of a Turkish aid vessel heading for Gaza in May 2010 continue to unfold. Israel steadfastly refuses to apologize for the deaths of nine Turks who were killed by Israeli commandos in the attack, and on Sept. 8, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that future aid vessels to Gaza would be escorted by the Turkish Navy.
If this sort of thing goes on, it is plausible to imagine a point at which countries with real military power ― Israel and Turkey, or India and China ― start shooting at each other. Moreover, all these countries except Turkey have nuclear weapons, though it is hard to imagine them being used in a conflict at sea. On the other hand, it is the sea and its slippery boundaries that make such confrontations possible.
The thing about maritime frontiers that makes them so much more dangerous than land borders is that they are often ill-defined, and almost always invisible. There are lots of disputed land frontiers in the world, but everybody knows where the actual line of control is, and there are usually troops or border police around to make sure that everybody observes it.
You can attack a land border if you really want to, but it is a very big decision with incalculable consequences: a declaration of war, in effect. Even the most arrogant or paranoid governments will think long and hard before embarking on such an action, and generally they end up by deciding not to do it. Whereas at sea, you can easily drift into a serious military confrontation that neither side intended.
Turkey recognized Israel in 1950, and in recent decades the two countries have been major trading partners and closely linked militarily. Only two or three years ago Israeli warplanes were still conducting military exercises in Turkey, and the latter was a major customer for Israeli weapons. But relations have cooled rapidly since Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel, and the attack on the aid flotilla last year was the last straw.
Early this month Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador, and Prime Minister Erdogan’s announcement that the Turkish navy will escort future aid convoys raises the prospect of actual military clashes between the two.
Erdogan cannot stand by and let any more Turkish citizens be killed, nor can he stop future convoys from seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israel’s refusal to apologize for killing Turkish citizens makes it politically impossible for him to defy Turkish public opinion on this. And yet if Turkish warships escort the next convoy, it’s easy to imagine an outbreak of shooting.
All Israel’s wars hitherto have been with poorly armed and badly led Arab armies in non-industrialized countries; a war with Turkey would be a very different matter, even if it remained a purely maritime conflict. But Israeli politics will not let Netanyahu back down either ― and because it’s at sea, nobody really knows where the red lines are.
Israel attacked last year’s aid flotilla well beyond the limits of the blockade zone it had declared around Gaza, and might do so again. Israel would have local air superiority, but the Turkish warships would be on hair-trigger alert for an attack. This could end very badly.
Even that is small potatoes compared to the potential for a naval conflict in the South China Sea. China insists that virtually the whole sea is its territory, with claimed boundaries that skim the coasts of all the other countries that border the sea: Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.
China bases its claim on its historic sovereignty over the clusters of low-lying islands in the middle of the sea, the Paracels and the Spratlys. But Hanoi says that Beijing never claimed sovereignty until 1940, and that the islands had actually been controlled by Vietnam since the 17th century. They were certainly under Vietnamese control until 1974, when China seized them by force, killing several Vietnamese soldiers in the process.
The Philippines also claims some of the islands, and all four Southeast Asian countries reject China’s claim to own the seabed rights practically up to their beaches. To make matters worse, there are now believed to be enormous reserves of oil and gas under the sea’s shallow waters.
Worst of all, the South China Sea is a maritime highway connecting Europe, the Middle East and South Asia with East Asia, and none of the other major powers is willing to let it fall under exclusive Chinese control. That’s why an Indian warship was visiting Vietnam last July, and why the United States is selling more warships and helicopters to the Philippines.
It’s a slow-burning fuse, but this is the most worrisome strategic confrontation in the world today....
[India is taking the same confrontational approach in the South China Sea, to the parasitical exploitation of weaker nations to harvest their potential energy resources, that Indian ally Israel is taking in the Eastern Mediterranean. Both India and Israel are risking major military confrontations in order to exploit their neighbor's (Vietnam, Cyprus) potential resources, by taking advantage of the fact that they have no or little capability to develop them on their own. It is obvious that the American pirates are starting to rub-off on their allies India and Israhell..., causing them to think just like American Imperialists, who have no moral compunctions against resource wars, barbaric assassinations and murder on a global scale.... I guess that we will have to cast our lot with China on this one, in hopes of seeing a Vietnamese/Indian failure in their joint endeavor.]
India will be infringing on “China’s sovereignty and national interest” if ONGC Videsh goes ahead with its plans to explore oil and gas in the South China Sea, the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated on Monday. The Indian company has worked out plans to explore the sea area along with Vietnamese oil companies.
The statement comes after the Indian government indicated it has taken into consideration the position of China and Vietnam before allowing ONGC Videsh to enter into business contract with Vietnamese firms. China and Vietnam are locked in a dispute over ownership of islands in South China Sea, which has huge reserves of oil and gas. Even Japan, Philippines and Indonesia are involved in disputes over sea island ownership with China.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said any move by countries outside the South China Sea region will “complicate and magnify the dispute” that Beijing has with the Vietnamese government. China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the concerned islands is based on full historical and jurisprudential evidence going back to the Han dynasty.
Any country wishing to explore for oil should closely study China’s position and obtain its permission before venturing to do so, he said....
Despite objections or harassment of China, India plans to sign several contracts with theU.S. , including oil exploitation contracts outside the U.S. continental shelf between OVL and Petrovietnam, the contract for the engineering camp opened in Vietnam, as well as increased borrowing to fund the U.S. implementation plans will be signed when Truong Tan Sang went to India in mid-October. In the recent U.S. visit, Indian foreign minister SM Krishna spoke a lot about treaties, trade, economic and technical cooperation between the two countries.
Oil exploitation contracts between OVL and Petrovietnam is considered strategic because the contract will challenge China on the so-called “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea. Already here, India has asked China to terminate the planned game against oil on the East Coast of India OVL.
Ensure energy needs are paramount factors in the relationship between Vietnam and India, despite the Chinese threat. Part of the exploitation of oil OVL up to more than half the total amount of 400 million dollars of Indian investment in Vietnam.
Unmoved by Chinese objections, the ONGC Videsh Ltd
(OVL) and Petro Vietnam - state-owned exploration and production of Companies
Strategic Cooperation. Signing of the pact is expected to be one of the nhiều
outcomes in terms of Agreements khi
Truong Tan Sang Vietnam President visits India in the second week of October.
India will announce more cũng line of credit, above the existing Rs 300 crore
Besides opening and more information technology (IT) parks in Vietnam.
Many Agreements in the areas of trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological
Cooperation are likely to be Inked khi cũng Sang’s visit.
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna Discussions with Sang long held on the
Entire Facet of the bilateral ties During His visit to Vietnam.
The MoU the between OVL and Petro Vietnam in the nature of a “Strategic
Cooperation “đồng nghĩa Undertaking of more exploration projects, mà can irk
China enjoys very little with its position “undisputed Territorial Sovereignty over
South China sea . “