India backs proposed Code of Conduct for South China Sea
The support by India, which has also been involved in a tiff with China over use of resources in the disputed mineral-rich maritime region, came a day ahead of the East Asia Summit where the issue is expected to come up. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be attending the Summit meet.
"We support efforts to arrive at a Code of Conduct and firm up measures by which South China Sea will be an area of cooperation," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters here.
Asked whether the issue would be discussed at the East Asia Summit (EAS) tomorrow, he said, "leaders can discuss any issue they wish... Obviously when leaders meet they would take up issues which are of immediate concern but these issues should be discussed in the light of need for EAS to have overriding priority of building of bridges of cooperation among various countries".
Citing the Prime Minister, Mathai said he has emphasised that EAS is important as a forum for acceleration economic development and enhancing ecomomic interests of all the countries.
Over a year ago, India was involved in a tiff with China which objected to its exploration of hydrocarbons off the Vietnamese coast.
Mathai's statement came against the backdrop of differences among the ASEAN members, with the Philippines refusing to agree with Cambodia to not to "internationalise" the dispute.
Philippines has said that it has the "inherent right to defend its national interests when deemed necessary".
Cambodia, this year's ASEAN chair and host of the summit, said yesterday that Southeast Asian leaders had agreed not to "internationalise" the disputes and would confine negotiations to those between the bloc and China.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also chipped in warning that the South China Sea was of concern to the international community and could impact peace and stability in the region.
ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, have claims to parts of the sea, which is home to some of the world's most important shipping lanes and believed to be rich in fossil fuels.
But China insists it has sovereign rights to virtually all of the sea.