Sept. 29 – Dismissing China’s recent comments strongly condemning Vietnam and India for planning oil and gas exploration in the disputed South China Sea region, India’s state-run oil firm ONGC Videsh Ltd. has said it would go ahead with its planned operations in the region.
“Energy security is among our top priorities. ONGC Videsh Ltd. has been there in Vietnam for the past 10 years. Now it is planning to sign an MoU for strategic cooperation to take the ties with Petro Vietnam forward,” said an Indian official.
Apparently, India has determined to “intervene” in this region and Vietnam, which is a claimant to part of the disputed territory, is willing to take India’s side.
“Vietnam reiterates that cooperation projects in oil and gas between Vietnam and its foreign partners, including those in blocks 127 and 128, lie within its exclusive economic zones and continental shelf and are completely under Vietnamese sovereignty… in line with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and with international practices, as well as with multilateral and bilateral agreements to which Vietnam is party,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said in a statement , which reaffirmed India’s comments that China has “no legal basis” to oppose the oil exploration in blocks 127 and 128 as they belong to Vietnam.
“We will proceed with drilling at our block (in the South China Sea) on a schedule established according to our technical convenience,” a senior ONGC Videsh Ltd. executive said.
Sources said that India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. is going to sign the aforementioned MoU in the second week of the coming October, during which time the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang will be visiting India.
In addition to the MoU, India will also announce a number of plans to strengthen bilateral relations with Vietnam, including raising the line of credit and proposing to build more IT Parks in Vietnam, Indian media said.
Vietnam’s President Sang met with the Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna in Hanoi on September 17, and invited him to co-chair the 14th session of the Vietnam-India Joint Committee on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation. On the same day, President Sang also arranged a meeting with Indian Defense Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Vietnam and India always enjoy mutual support in their respective struggle for national independence as well as endeavor for construction and development,” Sang stressed.
India’s Defense Secretary suggested that the two countries should promote cooperation in military-related activities, including cooperation in defense technology training as well as in conducting a security dialogue at the vice-ministerial level and cooperation between a number of military sectors.
However, according to reports, India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd. has given up on block 127 and is only exploring 128. Meanwhile, another Indian company Essar Group has a joint project over a gas field with Vietnam near its coast. The company claimed that the gas field does not belong to the disputed area and it did not bid for more exploration projects from Vietnam.