Amid South China Sea stand-off, India stresses peace, stability
New Delhi/Bangkok: Amid a tense stand-off between China and Vietnam over territorial rights in the South China Sea, India on Thursday stressed peace, stability and navigational freedom in the vital sea route through which almost 55 per cent of its trade passes.
India’s reply came as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar participated in ASEAN-related multilateral events in Bangkok, where his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh is present. He also co-chaired the 10th Mekong Ganga Cooperation Ministerial Meeting with Pham Binh Minh, who is also the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister.
In fact, an angry Vietnam denounced illegal activities by a Chinese oil survey vessel in Vietnamese waters at an ASEAN meeting in Bangkok.
“The situation in the East Sea is complicated, with unilateral actions including militarization, increasing military exercises, especially the activities of Chinese oil survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts, which are infringing upon the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of Vietnam with illegal survey activities,” Pham Binh Minh said at the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.
Pham Binh Minh stressed that China’s actions seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction under the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Earlier, the Vietnamese envoy in Delhi had briefed India about the escalating tension in the South China Sea in the wake of Chinese ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 entering the waters near Vanguard reef, that belongs to Hanoi, to ostensibly conduct a seismic survey.
The Chinese action came days after Vietnam entered into a joint exploration agreement with Japan in the reef area.
Earlier, China had hinted that it might decide to drill in the area if Vietnam does not back off.
Both countries have positioned heavily armed coastguard vessels in a confrontational situation around Vanguard Bank in the Spratly group of islands.
Hanoi has always been keen for India to play a more active role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
India has been consistently stating that all disputes should be resolved through peaceful means and in accordance with the UNCLOS.
Asked about Vietnam broaching the subject, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that India has a “standard position regarding the South China Sea”.
“We have a standard position in the matter, which is very clear and consistent. We have significant economic and trade interests passing through this region, almost 55 percent of our trade, and accordingly we have genuine interests, legitimate interests, in the peace and stability and reliability of access to the major waterways of the region. And in any normal activity when we engage in such waters, we expect that normal international laws should be followed,” he said.
Jaishankar also held a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at Bangkok, where the subject is likely to have cropped up.