09:06 GMT +321 January 2020
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    Amid an atmosphere of heightened border tension between India and China, Vietnam has renewed a license for Indian state-owned company ONGC Videsh to explore oil blocks in the South China Sea for the next two years.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — India has consistently taken the strategic road on oil exploration in the South China Sea, as ONGC Videsh expressed unwillingness due to the project’s commercial unviability. The oil block exploration areas are in a maritime region that China claims as its own.

    China has reiterated that it opposes any exploration activities in the region. “China resolutely upholds its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, firmly opposes unilateral and illegal oil and gas activities by any country, enterprise or institution in the waters under China’s jurisdiction. We hope the relevant country can bear the larger picture of regional peace and stability in mind and refrain from actions that will complicate the situation,” Geng Shuang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in response to a question about the renewal of ONGC Videsh’s exploration rights.

    Earlier, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said India was welcome to play a bigger role in Southeast Asia. “ASEAN supports India to play a greater role in the political and security domain, and create a regional rule-based region. We hope India will continue to partner our efforts for strategic security and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea on the basis of international law and legal convention,” Minh said.

     Of late, India has become a major defense supplier to Hanoi, which is seen as part of a process to create a formidable alliance against China in the region. Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a $500 million special loan to Vietnam to buy defense equipment, on top of $100 million given previously to help it buy patrol boats.



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