Global Times special correspondent in India: Zhou Liangchen
“Despite not having found any oil and gas resources, the Indian company will continue exploration in the South China Sea disputed area”, according to a Times of India report on August 24, The Vietnam government has given the fourth extension to Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC) for exploration in Block 128, which is located in contested South China Sea waters, repeatedly allowing India to maintain its presence there purely for “strategic considerations”.
Times of India reported that although China has warned the concerned countries against exploration activities in the in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, ONGC still chose to extend its exploration period for the fourth time with Vietnam, the new contract is extended up to June 2017. In 2006, ONGC was awarded exploration rights for blocks 127 and 128 in the South China Sea by Vietnam; both are located in the disputed region. Block 127 was abandoned because of not finding oil and gas, and block 128 is still under exploration. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson had previously said: “We have no objection in cooperating with the concerned countries in legitimate and rightful exploration of oil and gas in non-contested waters. But if such cooperation harms China’s sovereignty and interests, we will resolutely oppose”.
Press Trust of India reported on August 23 that the Indian company had applied to Vietnam in May this year for the extension of exploration license for the fourth time, which has now been approved. Block 128 covers about more than 7000 square kilometers, and the Indian company has so far invested more than $ 50 million. Despite not finding any hydrocarbons, India continues to stay. Some analysts says although currently India’s oil and gas exploration work seems to be yielding no economic benefits, it is still not planning to give up, which shows India’s tough stance on the South China Sea issue. India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir frequently receive “disturbances” from Pakistan, while China had been disregarding this. Moreover, the China-Pakistan Economic corridor plans to pass through this region, which touches the interests of India’s territorial sovereignty. Times of India also said that the Modi government continues to play a participatory role in the South China Sea dispute, which is thought to be of help in diluting India’s embarrassment of being denied the entry into NSG because of China’s opposition.
Times of India also believes that Vietnam in the recent years has fast emerged as the fulcrum of India’s “Act East Policy”. India has extended a $ 100 million loan to Vietnam and has upgraded its coastguard patrol equipment. India and Vietnam has already started defence cooperation in many fields. India is paying serious attention to Vietnam not just for participating in East Asian affairs or for having a stronger voice among the ASEAN countries, but it is seeing more from an angle of playing a wider role in the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Vietnam next month, on his way to China for the G 20 summit. This will be the third visit by an Indian prime minister to the country in the past few decades. The other two times are when A B Vajpayee visited Vietnam in 2001 and Manmohan Singh in 2010.