New Delhi: As disputed South China Sea witnesses increased Chinese influence, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Monday pitched for India's "active support" to peacefully resolve all disputes and sought its greater linkages across the region.
Tan, who will hold talks on a range of issues with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, also made it clear that Vietnam has and will continue to allow ships from India. The remarks came a month after an Indian naval ship INS Airavat was asked to exit Chinese waters as it was approaching a Vietnamese port.
"The proper settlement of disputes in the East Sea for peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the region is in the common interest of countries in the region and beyond.
"In that spirit, Vietnam hopes that India, as a major power in the region and the world, will actively support the parties concerned to peacefully resolve all disputes, refrain from actions that may further complicate the situation, thus contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea," the Vietnamese prime minister told PTI in an interview.
Noting that Vietnam always attaches great importance to the friendship and cooperation with all countries including China, Tan said, "Accordingly, Vietnam supports India to increase multidimensional linkages with South East Asia. For the purpose of friendship and exchange, we have and will continue to allow ships from other countries including India to visit Vietnam."
"Vietnam hopes that India, with its increasingly important role, will make positive and responsible contributions to the maintenance of peace and stability and the region and the world," he said.
The remarks may not go down well with China, which has been objecting to Indian presence in the disputed South China Sea in oil exploration projects. Last month, China had asked Indian naval assault vessel, INS Airavat, which was on a routine call at a Vietnam port and was travelling in open international waters in the South China Sea, to leave the waters terming them as "Chinese waters".
Making clear its position on the East Sea issue, Tan said Vietnam and other Asean countries have consistently underlined the importance of complying with international law, the 1982 UNCLOS and maintaining peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among seven sovereign states within the region -Brunei, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Asked whether Vietnam would like to settle the dispute with China bilaterally or will it act based on international law, the Vietnamese Prime Minister said his country always holds in high regard the traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation with China and indicated that it would like the dispute to be settled in compliance with international law.
"However, Vietnam is determined to protect its sovereignty over the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos as well as its sovereign rights and jurisdiction rights in these waters.
"With the tradition of amity and consistent foreign policy, Vietnam always perseveres with resolving all disputes through peaceful means, without resort to the use or threat of force, on the basis of exercising self-constraints and refraining from actions that may further complicate the situation, in compliance with international law, the 1982 UNCLOS, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and efforts toward a code of conduct (COC)," he said.
He said Vietnam always takes a proactive approach in its conduct in keeping with international law and takes advantage of every opportunity to reduce tension, restore trust, promote friendly cooperation, pursue dialogue to seek a fundamental and long-term solution to the East Sea issue.
On India-Vietnam deciding to further military cooperation and if it could be considered to be aimed at China? Ton said, "The foreign policy of Vietnam is consistent. We do not join any military alliance against another country."
Asked if Vietnam would be able to ensure the interests of foreign oil and gas companies currently active in the East Sea, he said, "Vietnam welcomes and is committed to creating every favourable condition for normal economic cooperation activities between Vietnamese oil and gas companies and their foreign partners, including Indian companies, in the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf of Vietnam in keeping with the Vietnamese law and international law, particularly the 1982 UNCLOS."
Ton's visit is seen by Indian side as an opportunity to increase economic engagement even as the government was examining the Vietnamese offer of additional oil blocks for exploration in the South China Sea.