Hanoi: India was concerned with rising tensions in the South China Sea and attaches great importance to ensuring safety and security of sea lanes and freedom of navigation, a senior Indian official said in Hanoi on Tuesday amid reports that China has put up a Vietnamese petroleum block under exploration by an Indian firm for global bidding.
"We in India are particularly concerned about rising tensions in East Sea/South China Sea. We attach importance to ensuring safety and security of sea lanes of communication as well as freedom of navigation. We favour resolution of all disputes and differences through peaceful means and negotiations," said Rajiv Bhatia, director general of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), the think-tank of the Indian foreign ministry.
China claims sovereignty over the South China Sea and contests Vietnamese claims to two strategic islands and its exclusive economic zones where India has been prospecting for oil at the bidding of Hanoi.
Bhatia was addressing the inaugural session of a bilateral seminar on 'India-Vietnam Strategic Partnership: Future Directions' organised in collaboration with the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.
Stressing that the "strategic partnership" with Vietnam was one of its most important external relationships, Bhatia said the two countries needed to strengthen cooperation in regional and international fora to promote peace, stability, development and prosperity in East Asia.
Bhatia said India's relations with Vietnam were important because of the latter's "significant position" in Asean. India was hosting the India-Asean summit in New Delhi early next year and celebrating the two decades of their "dialogue partnership".
"Vietnam enjoys a very positive image in my country," Bhatia said.
The conference, Bhatia noted, was an important initiative to connect the academic and strategic communities of the two countries to enhance various areas of cooperation, particularly energy, knowledge economy and regional security.
Introducing ICWA, the director general noted that it was India's unique and oldest think-tank in the field of foreign policy, established in 1943, drawing inspiration from the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
He hoped the Track II exchanges would make a highly valuable contribution to the expanding dialogue between Vietnam and India.