India, Vietnam concur on East Sea oil and gas cooperation

By Phan Anh   August 4, 2019 | 08:47 pm PT
India, Vietnam concur on East Sea oil and gas cooperation
A deep water drilling platform off Vung Tau in Vietnam southern coast, April 29, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Maxim Shemetov.
India and Vietnam are on the same East Sea page and keen to continue oil and gas cooperation, senior officials say.

Top foreign ministry officials of both countries agreed on the need to maintain peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea, known internationally as the South China Sea, and reaffirmed their wish to maintain oil and gas development cooperation in Vietnamese waters.

The agreement was expressed in the meeting between Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh on the sidelines of the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, which wrapped up Saturday.

Vietnam and India also agreed on ways to boost their comprehensive strategic partnership, high-level visits, cooperation in commerce, investment, agriculture, medicine, aviation and defense, as well as cooperation on multilateral forums, especially in 2020 when Vietnam becomes ASEAN Chair and when both countries hold non-permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council.

India's commitment to continued oil and gas cooperation with Vietnam came amidst regional and global concerns of Chinese coercion in the waterway, particularly the operation of Chinese oil survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts in Vietnamese waters near the Vanguard Bank since early July.

The operation is happening near an oil block that Indian state-owned ONGC Videsh is working on.

Vietnam informed India of the development last month, and India has said that the Chinese presence has not stopped their operations.

"I do not think there has been any stoppage to our oil exploration," India's External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told Indian media last week.

Kumar said India has "genuine and legitimate interests in the peace, stability and predictability of access to the major waterways in the region."

Vietnam and India established diplomatic relations in 1972. India, a staunch ally in Vietnam’s fight for independence and reunification, is also one of Vietnam's top trading partners, with two-way trade turnover reaching $10.69 billion last year, double that of 2016, according to the Vietnam Trade Affairs Office in India.

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