Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who accompanied President Pranab Mukherjee to Vietnam, said oil blocks offered by Vietnam to ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) “were within” the territorial limits of Vietnam and did not fall in the contentious territory claimed by China.
Speaking to journalists on board as the President returned home, Pradhan said, “Seven blocks were offered by Vietnam. All are within the territorial boundary of Vietnam and do not fall within the Nine-Dash Line.”
“We are a commercial entity. Three or four of these blocks seem viable for exploration to us... our OVL team has been there for the last 10 days trying to analyse the primary data we have collected. We are very enthusiastic about this,” he said.
During Mukherjee’s visit, the Indian and the Vietnamese sides signed an agreement that provided for a Letter of Intent between Vietnam Oil and Gas Group and providing for additional two blocks for OVL in the South China Sea for exploration.
OVL also invited Petro Vietnam to invest in exploration off the Indian coast.
Since 2011, China has objected to India’s projects. China National Offshore Oil Corporation in June 2013 also issued a notification offering nine blocks in the South China Sea for foreign collaboration, including part of a block, which Vietnam had already awarded to the OVL.
Last May, China even asserted its claims by sending its mobile oil rig to Vietnam waters for alleged oil exploration, despite Vietnamese protests.
Later, China announced it will build lighthouses on five islands in South China Sea, of which two islands are in waters claimed by Vietnam.