India backs freedom of navigation, access to resources in SCS

Phnom Penh: As tension over South China Sea threatens to escalate, India, US and a number of ASEAN nations today pressed for peaceful resolution of the disputes between China and its neighbours in the resource-rich region while underlining the need for a code of conduct for resolving conflict and ensuring freedom of navigation in the area.

Forcefully articulating India`s position on the issue at the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting here, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said that all the countries must respect principles of international law in resolving the issue while asserting that freedom of navigation and access to resources in the area must be ensured in accordance with laid down principles.

"The message was that all outstanding issues must be resolved peaceful through a process of dialogue and discussion. Those dialogue and discussion should be taking place without intimidation or without any pressure tactics and it should be acceptable to all the parties involved," Krishna told reporters later without naming any country.

A number of ARF member countries held China responsible for the simmering tension in the South China Sea region while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Beijing to accept a code of conduct for resolving the dispute, which was also strongly favoured by Krishna. China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines all have competing claims on South China Sea (SCS) where India`s ONGC has oil blocks.

Calling for peaceful resolution of the dispute, both Krishna and Clinton favoured talks among all the concerned countries, a position which is contrary to Beijing`s assertion that it would resolve the differences bilaterally. Fresh tension engulfed the region after China deployed four surveillance naval ships to patrol the South China Sea in a bid to assert its sovereignty over a host of islands which were also claimed by a number of states including Vietnam and the Philippines as part of their exclusive economic zone.