New Delhi/Beijing, Dec 7: Unfazed by China's fresh assertion in South China Sea and its stern warning to Vietnam to stop unilateral oil exploration in the disputed waters, India Thursday underlined its support for freedom of navigation and access to resources.
"We have made our position clear several times. We are aware that the sovereignty of many parts of South China Sea is disputed. India is not a party to the dispute," Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson of India's external affairs ministry, told reporters to queries about China's renewed assertion in its claims over the South China Sea.
"We support freedom of navigation, right of passage and access to resources," he said in New Delhi.
The stress on "access to resources" is important as India, in the face of Chinese objections, has stuck to its position that its three oil exploration deals with Vietnam adhere to international norms.
China Thursday upped the ante and asked Vietnam to immediately stop "unilateral" oil exploration in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.
"Vietnam should immediately stop unilateral oil exploration in that part of the (disputed) sea and stop interrupting Chinese fishing boats so as to create conducive atmosphere for relevant negotiations," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters in Beijing.
In a stern message to India, China has reacted sharply to Navy chief, Admiral D.K. Joshi's remarks that the Indian Navy was prepared to protect its interests and deploy its forces in the contested waters.
Asked about Admiral Joshi's comments, China's foreign ministry spokesperson said China "hopes relevant countries respect China's sovereignty and national interests".
"China opposes any unilateral energy exploration and development activities in the disputed areas in the South China Sea," Hong was quoted as saying by the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper.