The external affairs ministry on Wednesday reiterated that India’s oil exploration activities in South China were purely commercial, even as it mulled over the pros and cons of a request from the ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) to exit one of the blocks on “commercial and technical grounds”.
Since India and Vietnam have already firmed up plans for joint exploration of oil in the future, moving out of one block doesn't mean India is calling it quits on exploration activities in the South China Sea. China sees the South China Sea exploration as a sovereign issue.
India doesn’t want to create an impression that it's bowing to Chinese pressure. HT had first reported about OVL's intent to start the “relinquishment process” of block 128 and the letter to the petroleum ministry, which sought the MEA's opinion on the issue.
“Our position has been consistent. Our interests in the South China Sea are commercial. These ventures entered into are commercial,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
“If you ask me what is the recommendation (to the OVL’s suggestion to exit), it won’t be prudent to answer that,” he said.
New Delhi will be weighing many options on the question of exiting block 128. OVL also has a 45% stake in an offshore block situated on the southern Vietnamese coast — not in the disputed waters — with BP and PetroVietnam as partners.
Some fields in this block have been producing gas since 2003, and OVL is developing more wells in this block to step up gas production.
New Delhi maintained that the blocks in the South China Sea belong to Vietnam. India has always honoured international conventions, treaties and frameworks, it added.