Undeterred India to hunt for oil in South China Sea
NEW DELHI: Brushing aside China's warning on Thursday asking countries "outside the region" to stay away from the South China Sea, foreign minister SM Krishna told his Vietnam counterpart Pham Binh Minh that India's ONGC Videsh will go ahead with oil and gas exploration in the disputed region or the two offshore blocks which Vietnam claims as its own.
Beijing had said on Thursday that it is opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration and development activities in waters under China's jurisdiction.
On a three-day visit to Hanoi, Krishna discussed a host of regional and global issues with Pham Binh Minh on Friday. Government sources said that the Vietnam authorities "fully endorsed" Krishna when he made the point that, despite Beijing's opposition, India will go ahead with oil and gas exploration in the region.
"Vietnam fully endorsed this and actually seemed very keen to continue this work during the meetings on Friday. They are fully in agreement in going ahead with the projects," said a source.
China had sent a demarche to India several months ago warning against launching exploratory projects in that region. With ONGC Videsh now preparing to move into the offshore blocks in the disputed region, its foreign ministry spokesperson said in reply to a question that China expected countries outside the region to "respect and support countries in the region to solve this dispute through bilateral channels".
"The two sides agreed during the discussions that there is no question of violating any international law in going ahead with the exploratory work. The meetings on Friday have paved the way for expansion of ONGC Videsh's oil and gas exploration work," added the source. Officials described Krishna's visit to Hanoi as highly successful saying that it had actually elevated India-Vietnam relationship to a new level. "The minister also met Vietnam PM Nguyen Tan Dung who told him that the two countries should explore more business opportunities," said an official.
Along with Pham Binh Minh, Krishna also co-chaired the 14th India-Vietnam Joint Commission Meeting on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation. "They expressed satisfaction that the strategic partnership was developing well and agreed to add greater content to bilateral relations in the fields of defence and security, trade and investment, education and culture and other areas," said a statement issued by the foreign ministry.
By Sachin Parasha - The Times of India - September 17, 2011