Amid growing aggressive posturing by Beijing on matters concerning the South China Sea, Vietnam has viewed that India and other major powers should play a constructive role in maintaining peace, security and freedom of navigation and aviation in the disputed sea.
”South China Sea is not only critical for the development of the littoral countries but is also a very important sea route to all nations, including India. Peace and security in the South China Sea is an integral part of the larger Indo-Pacific region,” Vietnam Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh told The Statesman in an interview.
Asked why China objected to India’s oil exploration activities in the blocks under Vietnam’s control in the South China Sea, he noted that cooperation in oil and exploration-extraction between Vietnam and India had started decades ago. It was being conducted in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of Vietnam, which was fully in accordance with international law, especially the UNCLOS.
”The 9-dash line that claims 90 percent of the South China Sea and overlaps with the exclusive economic zones and continental shelves of other countries has been declared illegal by the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on 12 July 2016,” he pointed out.
On defence cooperation between India and Vietnam, the Vietnamese envoy said it was an important pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries. Like many other countries, he said, Vietnam also has to purchase defence equipment from different countries, including India, to meet the need of defending its sovereignty. ”However, we don’t have any specific information on what exactly our defence ministry is buying from India. One thing you can be sure of is that whatever we purchase will be only for self-defence,” he added. His comments came amid reports that Vietnam was keen to buy Brahmos cruise missiles from India. Thanh recalled that India had extended a defence Line of Credit (LoC) of $ 500 million to Vietnam for facilitating deeper defence cooperation.
Speaking about India’s association with ASEAN of which Vietnam is a key member, he said ASEAN favoured India playing a greater role in the Indo-Pacific region and the world. ”ASEAN highly appreciates India for its support to the grouping’s centrality role and India’s active participation in regional security. Besides, both India and ASEAN gain immense interests from strengthening cooperation in terms of culture, economy and education,” he added.
The envoy said Vietnam fully supported India’s candidature for a permanent seat on an expanded UN Security Council. India and Vietnam, he said, had reaffirmed support for each other’s candidature for non-permanent membership of the Security Council: Vietnam for 2020-2021 and India for 2021-2022.