New Delhi: Virtually daring the Chinese dragon, India Tuesday bit the bullet and signed a pact with Vietnam to participate in two more oil exploration blocks in “Vietnamese waters” in the South China Sea.
India is already participating in three blocks, and this now takes the total number to five. Vietnam also extended the lease of participation by India in another oil block.
Hours after the pact was signed, China hit back, warning it will oppose any exploration activity in the South China Sea if it undermines its “sovereignty and interests”.
India will also give “naval vessels”, maybe four offshore patrol vessels, to Vietnam under a $100 million defence line of credit it intends to operationalise soon. India also offered Vietnam $300 million for trade diversification.
In a statement, clearly aimed at China, both countries agreed “freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea should not be impeded”.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung held talks on Tuesday to further strengthen strategic ties between the two countries, India and Vietnam signed seven pacts.
Vietnam said it “highly appreciated India’s position regarding the East Sea (South China Sea) issue and India’s continued cooperation with Vietnam in oil and gas exploration and extraction in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam in the East Sea”.
On the strategic ties between the two countries in defence and other spheres, Mr. Modi said, “Our defence cooperation with Vietnam is among our most important ones. India remains committed to the modernisation of Vietnam’s defence and security forces.
This will include expansion of our training programme, which is already very substantial, joint-exercises and cooperation in defence equipment.”...