The day HT broke the story about India asking China to desist from trying to stop oil and gas exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the issue fuelled the diplomatic row between the two countries on Thursday.
China has objected to exploration of Vietnamese blocks 127 and 128 by OVL on the grounds that it enjoyed “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and its islands. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said in Beijing,"Our consistent position is that we are opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration and development activities in waters under China’s jurisdiction.
“We hope foreign countries will not get involved in the dispute,” she said, without directly referring to India. “For countries outside the region, we hope they will respect and support countries in the region to solve this dispute through bilateral channels,” Jiang said.
In New Delhi, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash expressed India’s determination to go ahead with plans to enhance cooperation with Vietnam in the energy sector.
“ONGC Videsh Ltd has been in Vietnam for quite some time in offshore oil and natural gas exploration and they (Vietnam) are in the process of further expanding cooperation, with Essar Oil Ltd also being awarded a gas block in Vietnam,” Prakash said.
“This (energy) is one important area of cooperation and we would like this to grow. Our cooperation with Vietnam or with any other country in the world is always as per international laws, norms and conventions,” he said.
Prakash also reiterated India's position that New Delhi “supports freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and hopes that all parties to the dispute would abide by the 2002 declaration of conduct in the South China Sea”.
These issues are expected to find a place in the Joint Commission Meeting, to be co-chaired by external affairs minister SM Krishna and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi on Friday.
Since last year, China has been flexing its maritime muscle, sparking new tensions in relations with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and the US for what Beijing sees as American “interference” in its maritime backyard.