Let the sea be calm

Updated: 2011-09-17 08:07

(China Daily)

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If Vietnam and India insist on jointly tapping oil resources in the disputed waters of the South China Sea as reported, they may risk setting off a new round of tension in the troubled waters. Their relationship with China will be at stake too.

According to Indian media reports, the country's state oil company, ONGC Videsh Ltd, plans to explore oil in two Vietnam blocks in the disputed waters. The Press Trust of India, the country's news agency, reported that India's external affairs minister is scheduled to discuss the cooperation mechanism with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi on Friday.

India has been quick to dismiss China's objection to the oil exploration project, The Times of India reported on Thursday citing the external affairs ministry's spokesperson, who insisted that energy cooperation with Vietnam should grow.

Both countries should understand the sensitive and complicated nature of the South China Sea issue. They should also understand that China will not back off when it comes to issues concerning its territorial integrity. Beijing is determined to defend its indisputable sovereignty in the South China Sea.

India and Vietnam, which is directly involved in maritime territorial dispute with China, should show due consideration for regional peace and stability.

They should refrain from making reckless moves that could escalate tensions in the disputed waters. Their planned oil exploration in the waters is not simply an economic issue but one of security and political importance. Any misstep or misjudgment by them could hurt their relations with China.

As a neighbor of India and Vietnam both, China has vowed to build good-neighborly relations with them. Maintaining sound ties with China is also in the interests of India and Vietnam.

At the fifth meeting of the China-Vietnam steering committee on cooperation in Hanoi last week, the two sides agreed to expedite negotiations on the South China Sea disputes and work out a mutually agreeable solution as soon as possible. They also agreed to solve the maritime problem through negotiations and peaceful, friendly consultations.

In July, China reached a consensus with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Vietnam is a member state, on implementing the 2002 Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Hanoi should honor the commitments it has made at bilateral and multilateral levels and sincerely work in that direction. Any attempt that Vietnam makes to draw support from outside forces will be met with strong opposition from China and make the settlement of the dispute more difficult.

As for New Delhi, jumping on the bandwagon to provoke China on the maritime disputes is not a sensible move on its part. If India intends to rise as a big power, befriending China would be a better strategy for it.

(China Daily 09/17/2011 page5)