Indian exploration in Vietnam oil blocks within norms

New Delhi: Asserting that China`s opposition to India undertaking oil exploration in Vietnamese blocks was not in accordance with UN norms, Vietnam today said the blocks are well within its sovereign territory.

Maintaining that Vietnam will only explore in areas accepted by international community and that the oil block that India has been exploring is within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam`s sovereignty, Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhana said, "I can tell you that there is no dispute in sovereignty and territory of this area".

Asked if China`s opposition was wrong, the deputy Prime Minister said, "The opposition of China is just business of China…is not in accordance with the international convention that China is a signatory".

"Vietnam and other countries including China have signed a Convention on the Law of Sea in United Nations in 1982. And, therefore, Vietnam has the rights and claims its territory over 200 nautical miles in these areas," Nguyen, who is on a visit to India, told reporters here.

China has been opposing India undertaking exploration in the Vietnamese blocks on the ground that the area is disputed. "The area is disputed one. So we do not think that it would be good for India to do (explore oil) that," Deputy Director General of Asian Department in Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sun Weidong had said recently. He also underlined that China`s stand is not in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Asking New Delhi not to get involved in the "disputes", the senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official had said the sovereignty of the islands in the region was a major issue and India should not carry out oil exploration till resolution of the vexed issue.

Nguyen also acknowledged that discussions are on for more possible explorations both off shore and on shore. "Indian enterprises have been actively discussing with Vietnamese (firms) the opportunity of exploring oil and gas both off shore and on shore. However, we don?t have any information since they are in negotiation process," he said.

On the issue of civil nuclear energy, the deputy Prime Minister said Vietnam plans to build a nuclear reactor. "We highly value achievements of India in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. And Vietnam has a plan to build a nuclear reactor. According to the declaration of the strategic partnership established in 2007 between Vietnam and India, the two countries will cooperate in various areas. "And, therefore, discussions on application of nuclear energy is something that we should work on in the future," he said.

Asked about the status of Tata Steel`s USD 5 billion project in Ha Tinh province which is pending since 2008, Nguyen said both the governments are in talks over the issue. "This project is valued at USD 5 billion and, therefore, we have to prepare lot of things. For example, explorations, sites, production and transportation issues as well. We also have to take into consideration the sites as it covers large areas where people live and, therefore, we have to prepare housing for relocation of those people. And relocation and compensation are huge and TATA cannot do it alone and, therefore, the two governments have been working together to find a measure to solve this issue," he said.

Calling India a superpower, he said Vietnam was looking forward to cooperation in agriculture, education, training and science and technology, especially nano technology.

2012 is being celebrated as the Vietnam-India Friendship year, commemorating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic establishment and five years of strategic partnership establishment. He also affirmed Vietnam`s support to New Delhi`s `Look East Policy` and supported India to be a permanent member of the reformed UN Security Council.