Vietnam briefs India over situation in South China Sea

PTI, Aug 22, 2020, 8:27 PM IST

New Delhi: Vietnam has briefed India about the escalating tension in the South China Sea in the wake of China significantly ramping up its military presence by deploying a large number of ships and fighter jets in the resource-rich region notwithstanding the calls for restraint by several countries.

The issue figured during Vietnamese ambassador Pham Sanh Chau’s meeting with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday, people familiar with the development said.

They said the Vietnamese envoy gave an account of the current situation in the South China Sea including around Vietnamese waters where India’s ONGC has oil exploration projects.

China’s aggressive military assertion in the South China Sea came at a time it is engaged in an over three-month-long border row with India in eastern Ladakh.

No details of the meeting were made available either by the Ministry of External Affairs or by the Vietnam embassy.

“Foreign Secretary @harshvshringla met Amb @SanhChauPham of Vietnam, with whom India has strong ties and a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava tweeted after the meeting.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims.

An attempt by China in 2014 to drill oil in the Paracel Islands, claimed by Vietnam, had led to anti-China riots in Vietnam in which several Chinese factories were vandalised.

India has been supporting freedom of navigation and access to resources in the South China Sea in accordance with principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas. The South China Sea is important as 55 per cent of India’s trade passes through it.

China has been objecting to India’s oil exploration projects in the Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea. However, India has rejected the objection saying its energy cooperation with Vietnam was as per international laws.

In the last two months, China has increased its military assertiveness in the South China Sea when the entire world is battling the coronavirus pandemic. Following Chinese actions, the US sent military ships near the disputed islands and called Beijing’s claim over the region illegal.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month.

The defence and military ties between India and Vietnam have been on an upswing in the last few years. After a decade of being strategic partners, India and Vietnam formally upgraded their relationship status to “comprehensive strategic partnership” in 2016.

Defence and trade are important components of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations.

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