Book Discussion Series 11

Power Politics in Asia’s Contested Waters, Teritorial Dispute in South China Sea 

Enrico Fels and Truong- Minh Vu 


Published in 2016 Enrico Fels and Truong-Minh Vu’s work on the South China Sea stands out from much of the recent literature on this maritime dispute, on multiple counts. The first is that this is an anthology, which deserves acknowledgement for providing a multi-dimensional view   of the South China Sea from prehistoric times to the 2016 and for evaluating the territorial disputes and power contentions to which it has given a relentless upsurge. In addition to this, the work calls upon a substantial body of academic literature, as the book is alienated into five segments, discoursing utmost imperative concerns through working papers. The book thus offers a wide-ranging synthesis that sets it apart from the copious, though very attention-grabbing, literature on the subject that have been published in recent years. At the same time as many scholars are underwriting on the South China Sea will find in Fels and Vu’s book which holds worthwhile information and highly valuable references, overall approach is commendable as the editors have collected a cluster of experts on versatile expertise under the same area that South China Sea. Furthermore, as in my view this book is one of the essential works for student, journalist, or diplomat who wishes to gain insight, here quite comprehensive, into the hot spot that is the South China Sea today. 

Book begins with an introduction to the issue encompassing the significance of South China Sea as an vital waterway and Sea line of Communication for inter-region and trans-regional connections as SLOC connects Singapore with Northeast Asia .Rise of China is taken in account , which is inevitable and  prompt challenges to US-led regional order at Asia pacific, as the regional ascendency is in China’s hand by its economic prototypical model, headquarters of almost all central regional economic bodies are in China. South China Sea is described as China’s keen policy interest, by way of it’s global trade route which enumerate rich energy sources, in various ways SCS is the maritime economic runway of the Asia-Pacific and essential for the region’s economic development. China’s autonomy over SCS will allow Beijing to keep strategic compression on the Asia-pacific states. With the growing competition on the SCS resource-rich areas between the claimant states, US naval presence in SCS, Chinese maritime budget and power gained innumerous strength. The development of Law of sea in the historical perspective is described in detail , as the “Constitution of the Ocean”  entered into force in terms of legal fixation of different maritime zones. The convention however provides no provisions as to sovereignty rights. The law answers some extremely discussed questions, the law discuss the bays, rivers and lakes starching form landwards sides which states exerts complete sovereignty, which means that all archipelagic waters are under the sovereignty of states.  The work also provides a brief overlook of China’s maritime policy over divergent epochs , when China started to take small steps in 2010 towards  regaining the SCS under the Chinese Historical Regional Order, after Xi Jingping presidency in 2013 , Chinese policies towards SCS were more open and clear, Beijing started to accelerate its maritime politics in SCS in all tactics from political to deterrence and from economic to cultural diplomacies.  Chinese trade routes are always been a concern of Chinese policy makers at the time of Hu Jintao and Chinese policy makers used to call Malacca strait as a Malacca Strait Dilemma. So a new rout was discovered, a potential corridor through Eurasia , Myanmar and Pakistan. United State’s role in the whole wrangle is elaborated as a peace keeping body in the contested waters , playing to maintain the balance of power between China and rest of the claimant states. Claimant states that Philippines , Vietnam and Malaysia’s stance is discussed in detail , on  the one hand Vietnam’s peace treaty with China protects contested waters from any clash but Philippines defense agreement with non-claimant states including US creates hardlines for China. ASEAN is defined as a negotiation body under Chinese hegemony which usually provides platform for bargaining over the sovereignty claims for claimant states in the contested waters.

Enrico Fels and Truong-Minh Vu’s work is exhibiting certain narratives of all parties of dispute, both claimant and non-claimant are offered in detail, however China’s standpoint is not gratified in the discourse. Post-colonial reconstruction of the region is a foremost segment of SCS subject which is weak as well, furthermore abhorrent flaws in UNCLOS needs more discussion for expounding the subject. Which brings us to the conclusion that notwithstanding of profusion of material on SCS, the exertion is still not wide-ranging view of situation and designed under circumstantial influence.

By: Maryam Khan, (CIGA Research Associate)

Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris

Christopher Snedden


“Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris” has people of Kashmir at the centre of it. The author has tried to stay unbiased towards India, Pakistan and British, by giving the whole space to the people of the land. The history of Jammu and Kashmir before and after the partition of India has been explained. What makes this book different is the authors attempt to write about the conflict of meanings related to the word Kashmir and Kashmiri. Both the Indian and Pakistan narratives that say, it was Pukhtoon tribes that ignited the resistance movement in Kashmir, has been denied by author in this book, by writing that it was the people of Kashmir who own this resistance movement since the beginning. The author starts the history of Kashmir from 1846, not 1947; mentioning that he didn’t want to make it appear like as if the rabbit was pulled out of a hat.  The focus in this book has been shifted from India and Pakistan to the key holders called Kashmiris. The authors’ focus is more on the humans of Kashmir rather than on the political issues that are lingering between India and Pakistan. In the concluding chapter of the book, the author makes a statement that neither India nor Pakistan wants to resolve this conflict, because right-wing elements in India will find it difficult to criticise Pakistan if the India Pakistan relations were better. And he also blames Pakistan for being lazy in solving this conflict; thinking that Pakistani military will lose its essence.

By: Saima Rashid (CIGA Research Assistant)