Concerned, India Calls for Solution to South China Sea Row - The New Indian Express

Concerned, India Calls for Solution to South China Sea Row

Published: 10th May 2014 07:34 AM

Last Updated: 10th May 2014 07:35 AM

India has expressed “concern” at the ongoing high stakes confrontation in South China Sea, reiterating the solution should be found within international law, a traditional position which is at odds with the biggest stakeholder of the dispute, China.

On Wednesday, there was a high sea stand-off when Chinese boats used water cannons, and rammed into Vietnamese Coast Guard ships, who were challenging an oil rig in disputed waters of South China Sea, near the Paracel Islands.

At the same time, China also has to get back its ten fishermen, who were arrested by Philippines marine forces, near the disputed Spratlys Islands.

Stating that India has been, “following with concern”, recent developments in South China Sea, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on Friday, “We believe that maintenance of peace, stability, growth, and prosperity in the region is of vital interest to the international community.”

Reinstating the country’s stance, he added that India “would like to see resolution of the issue through peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.”

“In this context, we also maintain that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be impeded, and call for cooperation in ensuring security of sea-lanes, and strengthening of maritime security,” he said.

Through a series of caliberated actions, including an air defence zone over East China Sea, China has been flexing its muscles, creating ripples of concerns across the region, from Japan to Vietnam. Next week, both Vietnam and Philippines are set to take up South China Sea dispute at a meeting of regional group ASEAN in Myanmar.

China has made claims to a large part of the South China Sea, beyond its economic zone, based on “historical” legacy, which is at odds with South-east Asian countries of Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines, who have pointed out that Chinese claims violate the UN Law of the Sea convention.

Philippines has already filed legal documents before a tribunal of the UN Law of the Sea, but China refuse to take part in the UN arbitration process.

Therefore, India’s reference to “principles of international law”, in its latest statement, could be interpreted as an implicit backing of the smaller South-east Asian nations vis-a-vis China. As a much smaller country, Vietnam has been keen to bring in more stakeholders into the dispute. That’s why India’s O N G C Videsh continues to be given special preference by Vietnamese authorities, who are eager for Indian presence to remain in the South China Sea.

India already operates Block 6.1, which has been producing crude since 2003. Then, it got two more deepwater blocks - 127, and 128. Last November, during the visit of Vietnamese Communist Party’s secretary general Nguyen Phu Trong, Hanoi offered seven more blocks in South China sea, indicating how crucial Hanoi considers continued Indian role as a counter-weight to a belligerent China.

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