Krishna pitches for access to South China Sea
India has asserted that ‘access to resources’ has to be ensured in South China Sea in a clear reference to its energy interest at the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which saw sharp division and bickering between certain members of Asaen and China.
The sea - that covers 35,00,000 sq km contains rich hyrodcarbon resources and one-third of the world’s shipping lines pass through it - has been the source of intense diplomatic friction in the past few days of the Asean ministerial meetings.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna on Thursday noted that India had been following the developments in South China Sea. “As we had stated earlier, India supports freedom of navigation and access to resources in accordance with principles of international law,” he said in his intervention during the exchange of views at the 27-member forum.
According to sources, the inclusion of the phrase ‘access to resources’ clearly outlines India’s interests in the oil-rich region. The ONGC Videsh Limited has been operating an oil block in Vietnam since 2006, part of which falls in two of the oil blocks controversially put up for auction by the Chinese national oil company last month.
Krishna reiterated that the principles of international law had to be respected by all. “We have noted that the parties concerned are engaged in discussions to address the issue and we hope that progress will be made with respect to implementation of guidelines to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea,” added Krishna.
Later, speaking to reporters after the meeting, Krishna emphasised that foreign ministers speaking at the ARF conveyed the message that all ‘outstanding issues must be resolved peacefully through a process of dialogue and discussions’.
“Those dialogue and discussions must take place without intimidation or without pressure tactics. It should be acceptable to all the parties involved,” he asserted in unusually strong words.
Krishna’s remarks seemed to echo with that of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who urged nations to ‘resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats, and without use of force’ in a speech at the forum.
According to sources, Clinton was apparently unhappy with Cambodia, the chairman of the Asean ministerial meetings, which had been at the forefront in resisting the mention of South China Sea in the joint statement.