India, Vietnam ink pact to expand oil exploration in South China Sea
New Delhi: In a significant move, India and Vietnam on Wednesday inked an agreement for developing and expanding oil exploration projects in disputed South China Sea including allocation of new oil blocks, a pact that may irk China further.
The agreement, along with seven more, were inked after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, held extensive talks on key bilateral and regional issues and ways to enhance bilateral strategic ties.
“Both India and Vietnam belong to a region that holds enormous potential but also many challenges. We have a strong convergence of interests in working together and with others in the region, for a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia. We have, therefore, sought to build a comprehensive relationship with a broad-based agenda of bilateral and regional cooperation,” Singh said at a joint media event with Nguyen.
The Prime Minister also appreciated the offer of another offshore block to ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) for continued oil and gas exploration in South China Sea which is witnessing territorial disputes involving both land (island) and maritime among seven sovereign states including China, Philippines and Vietnam within the region.
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Vietnam Oil and Gas group and OVL was inked for the association in the field of exploration, development and production of petroleum resources between the two countries for new investments by OVL in oil and gas blocks in Vietnam.
Under the MoU, the PetroVietnam, Vietnam state company, was also invited to participate in open blocks in India and in third countries. OVL is already in joint venture with PetroVietnam in three oil blocks close to the disputed Spratly Islands, known as Nansha Islands in China.
Wednesday’s pact may not go down well with China which has time and again objected to India’s oil exploration projects in the region. China’s foreign affairs ministry has said India should respect its sovereignty and halt its oil and gas exploration.
“China opposes unilateral exploration and development of oil and gas in contested waters of the South China Sea. We hope relevant countries can respect China’s claim, position and rights and interests, and respect and support efforts made by countries in the region to solve disputes through bilateral negotiations,” it said.
Despite China’s objections to Indian oil exploration in South China Sea, Vietnam has been asserting that India has the right to pursue oil exploration there as they were within Vietnamese “exclusive economic zone”.
Nguyen also appreciated India’s position for peaceful resolution of the issue in the East Sea of Vietnam as per the international law and freedom of navigation. On the defence and security cooperation, Singh said the two countries have decided to strengthen it further.
“India will continue to assist Vietnam in modernization and training of its defence and security forces, including through a $100 million line of credit for defence purchases,” he said. PTI