India enhances presence in South China Sea

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New Delhi, Oct 28: Notwithstanding Chinese objections, India today went ahead to enhance its presence in hydrocarbon-rich South China Sea and inked a pact with Vietnam for exploration in two additional oil and gas blocks besides deciding to step up cooperation in key areas of defence, security, trade and counter-terrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung held wide-ranging talks on important bilateral, regional issues and pitched for "freedom of navigation and commerce, and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in the region".

The two sides also signed an agreement on extension of the contract for another oil project in South China Sea. With acceptance of two additional blocks, India has exploration projects in five Vietnamese blocks. The agreement between OVL and PetroVietnam aims to enhance mutual cooperation between India and Vietnam in hydrocarbon sector and underlines Vietnamese invitation to OVL to expand its presence in Vietnam and further consolidate cooperation in exploration and other areas between the two countries in energy sector.

Noting that India-Vietnam partnership was essential for advancing peace and stability in the shared neighbourhood, Modi, at a joint media event with Tan, said, "We have shared interest in maritime security, including freedom of navigation and commerce and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law." Today's agreements on oil exploration are likely to irk China, which has an acrimonious relationship with Vietnam due to their standoff over the South China Sea, a major source of hydrocarbons.

China has been objecting to India's oil exploration projects in the disputed waters. "Today, our partnership is important for promoting our nations' prosperity and essential for advancing peace and stability in our shared neighbourhood. We have shared interest in maritime security, including freedom of navigation and commerce and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law," Modi said.

IANS

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