Phnom Penh: As tension over South China Sea threatens to escalate, India, US and a number of ASEAN nations today pressed for peaceful resolution of the disputes between China and its neighbours in the resource-rich region while
underlining the need for a code of conduct for resolving conflict and ensuring freedom of navigation in the area.
Articulating India's position on the issue at the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting here, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said that all the countries must respect principles of international law in resolving the issue while asserting that freedom of navigation and access to resources in the area must be ensured in accordance with laid down principles.
"The message was that all outstanding issues must be resolved peaceful through a process of dialogue and discussion. Those dialogue and discussion should be taking place without intimidation or without any pressure tactics and
it should be acceptable to all the parties involved," Krishna told reporters later without naming any country.
A number of ARF member countries held China responsible for the simmering tension in the South China Sea region while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked Beijing to accept a code of conduct for resolving the dispute, which was also strongly favoured by Krishna. China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia
and the Philippines all have competing claims on South China Sea (SCS) where India's ONGC has oil blocks.
Calling for peaceful resolution of the dispute, both Krishna and Clinton favoured talks among all the concerned countries, a position which is contrary to Beijing's assertion that it would resolve the differences bilaterally.
Fresh tension engulfed the region after China deployed four surveillance naval ships to patrol the South China Sea in a bid to assert its sovereignty over a host of islands which were also claimed by a number of states including Vietnam and the Philippines as part of their exclusive economic zone.
In her address, Clinton called on all sides to resolve the disputes "without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force".
"We look to ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress towards finalising a code of conduct for the South China Sea that is based on international law and agreement," she said.
The situation deteriorated last month after state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation had called for bids from foreign firms offering exploration of oil in nine blocks in a South China Sea Part of the oil block number 128, which was contracted to ONGC for oil exploration by Petro Vietnam also fell under the blocks that CNOOC put up for bidding.
The Chinese claim on the South China Sea (SCS) has been rejected by both India and Vietnam, saying as per the UN, the blocks belong to Vietnam. India has made it clear that the entire Indian Ocean stretching from East African coast to SCS remains crucial to its foreign trade, energy and security.
China has been claiming that the islands are its part based on historical records. In the meeting Russia supported China's position.
In his address, Krishna also delved on grave threat of terrorism and sought a comprehensive global approach and strengthened commitment to deal with it.
"Terrorism remains a grave threat that must be addressed by all States through a comprehensive global approach and strengthened commitment to combat it in all its forms anywhere. The global regime against terrorism needs to be hinged on a holistic framework for which the Comprehensive Conventional on International Terrorism at the United Nations requires early conclusion," he said.
Speaking about Afghanistan, he said the international community should remain engaged in the country and extend support for a successful transition process. "India is committed to assisting the people and Government of Afghanistan as they build a peaceful, pluralistic, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan."
He said India was committed to build a secure and prosperous Afghanistan. Krishna also had pull-aside meetings with Clinton, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and discussed bilateral issues.