Over the past two days, the Indian media has run news stories criticising China’s illegal deployment of a drilling rig and military vessels in Vietnamese waters.

The Economic Times on May 7 described China’s moving of an oil rig near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, about 120 nautical miles from the Vietnamese mainland, as a push of “increasingly assertive territorial claims”.

According to the article, China asserts that its territorial claims in the East Sea are based on its ‘inherent’ and ‘indisputable’ historical sovereignty. However, these Chinese claims clearly lack any international legal basis and their actions are tantamount to ignoring international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS-1982).

The claim has earned widespread international criticism and has been a major obstacle to dispute settlement efforts in the region, the paper said.

In the May 8 edition, the paper continued the stories, saying that China’s actions, including ramming their vessels into Vietnamese ships and fending them off with water cannons, raised tensions between the nations to their highest point in years.

The Chinese acts run counter to the spirit of the UNCLOS-1982 and agreements Beijing has with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that call for nations not to unilaterally engage in conduct that escalates disputes.

Meanwhile, the South Asia Analysis Group (ASAG) website ran an article by Dr Subhash Kapila, in which he argued that “China has once again endangered security and stability in the maritime expanse of the East Sea region.”

According to Dr Kapila, China’s moves are part of a calculated strategy and more provocative behaviour and brinkmanship by China in the East Sea can be expected.

Other major newspapers, such The Indian Express and The Times of India ran news stories relating to recent developments in the East Sea, saying that China’s policies towards neighbours have raised the risks of conflict in the waters.

There has been an outcry around the world ever since China illegally positioned an oil rig, escorted by a large number of vessels, to operate in oil and gas Lot 143 on Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. The move seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago and its sovereign right and jurisdiction over the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.-VNA