Beijing’s bid to thwart oil and natural gas exploration in two Vietnamese blocks in the South China Sea by India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) has been rebuffed by New Delhi. India’s ministry of external affairs (MEA) said China’s objections have “no legal basis” as the blocks belong to Vietnam.
Beijing had in a demarche — a formal diplomatic representation of a government’s official position — to India stated that unless its permission is taken for exploration in Blocks 127 and 128, OVL’s activities there would be illegal.
“While an appropriate reply has already been given to China’s demarche, the issue is set to be discussed during the visit of external affairs minister SM Krishna to Vietnam on September 16,” an MEA official said.
“The Chinese had concerns but we are going by what the Vietnamese authorities have told us and have conveyed this to the Chinese,” he said.
MEA sources said Vietnam had cited sovereignty rights over Blocks 127 and 128 according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982.
There are many potentially oil- and gas-rich islands on the South China Sea, which are facing territorial disputes and where, apart from China, other countries including Vietnam are claimants.
For instance, Vietnam claims rights to the Paracel Islands, which China first occupied in 1974. The Spratly Islands are another area under dispute, with Vietnam and China staking their claims.
In June 2007, UK’s energy major BP abandoned exploration plans in a block between Vietnam and the Spratly Islands, citing ongoing uncertainty over competing ownership claims between Vietnam and China.