Vietnam backs oil exploration by India in South China Sea

Vietnam backs oil exploration by India in South China Sea

Vietnam backs oil exploration by India in South China Sea

Amid China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, Vietnam Thursday endorsed India's "exploration and exploitation work" for hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone in the sea.

Vietnam also voiced support to India's Look East policy that manifests in New Delhi playing a "more active role in the Asia Pacific region" and the world at large.

Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, addressing a joint press conference with India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here, said the issue of maritime rights in the South and East China Seas was discussed during talks at the 15th Meeting of the India-Vietnam Joint Commission and both have stated their position that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) needs to be respected.

"Our position is that we need to respect the law of UNCLOS to solve the issues in the South China Sea, for peaceful resolution," the Vietnamese minister said.

He said both sides also reaffirmed that all the countries bordering the South and East China Seas have rights to their exclusive economic zones, and that India can pursue "exploration and exploitation work in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam".

China in the past has raised serious objections to ONGC's foreign arm OVL's participation in oil blocks in the South China Sea off Vietnam's coast. China claims sovereignty over the areas, but Vietnam has maintained it has rights in the area based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982.

Khurshid said that India expresses its commitment to continuing bilateral collaboration with Vietnam "in the field of exploration", and added that these are commercial ventures by Indian companies.

He also said that India has indicated that any contentious maritime issue "should be settled in a peaceful manner, through dialogue".

India is keen to keep the maritime lanes open in the South China Sea, which is a major gateway for shipping in East Asia with a major portion of its trade with the Asia Pacific transiting through the sea.

Khurshid said India has also agreed to provide "patrol vehicles to Vietnam for its border areas" and both countries have agreed to deepen their economic and defence cooperation.

He said India has invited the Vietnamese defence minister to India this year as also the general secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party.

The Vietnamese minister said there was "vast potential for mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in high tech areas, in oil and gas exploration and agriculture" among other areas.

Both sides have also agreed to have direct flights to boost tourism and people-to-people ties and also set up a joint trade commission to achieve the trade target of $7 billion by 2015, he said.

He said Vietnam is keen on Indian businessmen setting up ventures in his country.
The Vietnamese minister also reiterated Hanoi's support for India's bid for a permanent seat at an expanded UN Security Council.

"We want to affirm our support to India's Look East policy which manifests in a more active role in Asia Pacific region and the world at large," said the Vietnamese minister.

Both sides inked an agreement on $19.5 million Line of Credit for setting up the Nam Trai-IV hydropower project and Binh Bo pumping station in Vietnam.

Khurshid said investments by Indian companies total about $936 million in 86 projects in sectors such as oil and gas exploration, mineral exploration and processing.

He said India's Tata Power has been chosen by Vietnam as developer for a $1.8 billion 2X660 MW Long Phu 2 Thermal Power Project in Soc Trang province in southern Vietnam, overcoming strong competition from South Korean and Russian companies.
"It will be the single largest Indian investment in Vietnam when it comes through and will give a strong boost to our economic cooperation and the strategic partnership," he said.

India has extended 17 Lines of Credit totalling $164.5 million, including the $19.5 million inked Thursday.

India is also setting up a $2 million Vietnam-India Advanced Resource Centre in ICT (ARC-ICT) in Hanoi and providing a PARAM Supercomputer, costing Rs.4.7 crore, as a grant, for use in multiple applications.

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