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Analysis

Enhancing ASEAN’s Centrality in Maintaining Peace and Stability in South China Sea *

Introduction

ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea released in a Statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Cambodia, 20 July 2012 could be seen as a timely action of ASEAN Member States to regain the Association’s image which had been believed to be lost due to the failure of the 45th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting to issue its joint communiqué.

The Principles named reflects ASEAN Member States’s efforts to realize ‘ASEAN’s centrality and role as the primary driving force in charting the evolving regional architecture’,[1] including the enhancement for maintaining peace and stability in South China Sea.

Emergence of South China Sea as a Flash Point

Notwithstanding some moves to manage the South China Sea disputes by having a Code of Conduct, the current developments, which are raising the level of tension among the different claimants, do not generate optimism for any positive outcome. An objective examination of the recent activities would suggest that situation is fast moving in the direction of a limited conflict, which would have the potentials of taking the shape of a large conflict with outside powers being drawn into the conflict.

At the outset it is important to state that India has a great stake in the South China Sea. Our entire trade with China, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and 55% of trade with US passes through the South China Sea.

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