India's involvement complicates South China Sea dispute

By Liu Jun
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 22, 2011
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In recent years Vietnam has carried out a number of activities in the South China Sea which have threatened China's sovereignty. Seizing 29 islands claimed by China, it cooperated with Russia in developing oil exploration technologies and purchased advanced submarines and other weapons. As the United States launched its "return to Asia" strategy last year, Vietnam also enhanced its military cooperation with the U.S.

This year, Vietnam has continued its efforts to complicate the issue. Brushing aside opposition from Beijing, Vietnam recently reached an agreement with India on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea and has also enhanced its military cooperation with India.

China has constantly advised India to avoid involvement in the South China Sea dispute. Despite this, Indian oil companies have been cooperating with Vietnam in its energy exploration efforts. India's ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) recently invested 2250 million U.S. Dollars for oil and gas exploration projects in the South China Sea. The Indian and Vietnamese governments also said that they will increase their military, trade and investment cooperation. As part of the deal, India will help Vietnam train its submarine forces.

Vietnamese Minister for Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh said that he fully supported ONGC Videsh's investment. The Indian embassy in Hanoi also confirmed Vietnam's cooperation in the venture. Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna asserted that the exploration projects do not violate international law, and that China's opposition has no legal basis.

China's protests and warnings have been unable to dissuade India and Vietnam from cooperating. Based on India's recent actions, we can draw the conclusion that India has a vested interest in siding with Vietnam in the South China Sea disputes because it also wishes to contain China's influence in the region.

On the surface, Vietnam has been developing friendly ties with China while secretly colluding with the U.S., Russia and India in its oil exploration efforts. Upon viewing the evidence, Vietnam's intentions are very clear. It wants to occupy the islands it snatched from China as long as possible and contain China's development in the region, in hopes of gaining more leverage in Sino-Vietnamese negotiations.

Maintaining friendly relations with Vietnam and India are of strategic importance to China. However, the recent display of Indian-Vietnamese cooperation has added a new level of difficulty to the South China Sea dispute. As more actors become involved, finding a peaceful solution to the problem becomes increasingly complicated.

This post was first published in Chinese and translated by Zhang Ming'ai.)

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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