NEW DELHI: India is likely to sign agreements for two oil blocks with Vietnam on Tuesday after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung. But unlike previous blocks, these are not located in waters of the South China Sea over which Beijing has staked its claim.
Earlier, during President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Hanoi in September, ONGC and Petro Vietnam had signed a Letter of Intent(LoI) to consider participation in ‘two-three’ additional blocks after getting the techno-commercial viability reports. According to official sources, the technical reports have cleared participation in the new blocks. Therefore, ONGC and Petro Vietnam will now be signing the agreement for exploration in two blocks in the South China Sea.
But, unlike previous blocks explored by the ONGC, these two will steer clear of controversy as they do not fall within the nine-dash line claimed by China. This may be part of a general trend not to unnecessarily provoke China. Currently, the ONGC is still exploring block 128 - part of which falls in the disputed territory and had even put up for auction by the China National Offshore Oil Corp for bidding in June 2012. Almost every year, India has tried to give up Block 128, but was persuaded to remain by Vietnam.
As the smaller country in the dispute, Vietnam would like to draw maximum spotlight on the issue. India has backed Vietnam’s position on the dispute, stating that international law should be the basis for a peaceful, negotiated solution. However, with the new oil blocks offered by Vietnam not being in the disputed region, China is not likely to be riled by the signing of the pact on Tuesday.
Besides, Vietnam and India are likely to sign an MoU on Nalanda University. This was also announced by the Vietnamese PM during his trip to Bodh Gaya, where he noted that Buddhism bound India and Vietnam together.Accompanied by his wife and a large business delegation, Nguyen arrived here on Monday afternoon. His first engagement here was an interaction with the joint business chambers, which also underscored the main theme of the visit.
At a press briefing by MEA officials on the visit, it was pointed out that “economic engagement” was the main focus of the visit.