While the world focuses on rising tension between China and the Philippines and other claimants in the South China Sea, Beijing and Delhi are also engaged in a quiet struggle in the contested waters. By putting up for international bidding the same oil block that India had obtained from Vietnam for exploration, China has thrown down a gauntlet. By deciding to stay put in the assigned block, India has indicated it’s ready to take up the Chinese challenge. At stake is Chinese opposition to India’s claim to be a regional power.
The conflict between India and China over the South China Sea has been building for more than a year. India signed an agreement with Vietnam in October 2011 to expand and promote oil exploration in the South China Sea and has now reconfirmed its decision to carry on despite the Chinese challenge to the legality of Indian presence.