Global Peace Index: South China Sea a ‘Potential Area For Conflict’

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Global Peace Index: South China Sea a ‘Potential Area For Conflict’

A new report highlights an increasing division between the most and least peaceful nations – including in Asia.

Global Peace Index: South China Sea a ‘Potential Area For Conflict’

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Pinkney (DDG 91), and the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) operate in formation in the South China Sea.

Credit: U.S. Navy

This week, the Institute for Economics and Peace published its annual Global Peace Index. This year’s index highlighted that escalating civil strife and the consequent refugee crisis have been among the key drivers in increasing the cost of containing global violence.

The intensity of armed conflict increased dramatically, with the number of people killed in conflicts globally rising more than 3.5 times from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2014.

Despite ongoing improvements in peace in many countries, the number and intensity of armed conflicts increased dramatically, with a 267 percent rise in the number of deaths from conflict since 2010, creating unprecedented levels of refugees.

With specific reference to the Asia-Pacific region, the index highlights diverse trends:

The Asia-Pacific region ranked third behind Europe and North America in the Global Peace Index. However, as a region it contains the most diversity, with three countries in the top ten and a single country, North Korea, in the bottom ten of the overall rankings.

The paper also notes increased regional tensions in the Asia-Pacific region during 2014:

The South China Sea remains a potential area for conflict, with countries involved in the dispute (China, Vietnam and the Philippines) all showing a worsening of their scores in the 2015 index. Although the likelihood of further military skirmishes in the disputed waters is high, a large-scale military engagement remains unlikely.

Additionally, the Global Peace Index states that the Philippines suffered from an escalation of internal conflicts. It also underlines that Myanmar showed a worsening of its score, “partly driven by the imposition of martial law in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone in Shan State on the border with China, which is reflected in a deterioration in likelihood of violent demonstrations.”

The region’s black sheep, North Korea, “remains a concern for global peace with continued belligerence and isolation,” the index laconically summarizes.

However, not all news coming out of the Asia-Pacific region is negative:

Notable improvements in the Asia-Pacific region include Indonesia, which, thanks to improvements in the level of violent crime and a reduced impact of terrorism, was the most improved country in the region, rising 12 places to a rank of 46th in the overall rankings in 2015. Australia has moved up four places to ninth in the overall rankings, joining New Zealand and Japan in the top ten of the world rankings.

The picture is somewhat different in South Asia, where the scores of most countries in the region worsened, with just Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh registering gains. For example, Afghanistan appears to be on a downward spiral:

Against the backdrop of the withdrawal of most international forces from Afghanistan, the number of deaths from internal conflict in the country rose last year in tandem with an increase in political terror.

Pakistan is not far behind:

Pakistan’s score has similarly deteriorated, on the back of a worsening of its perceptions of criminality; as a result, the country remains second from the bottom in South Asia.

Even in India, the number of casualties from internal conflict rose with a Maoist insurgency still battling the government.