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Manmohan To China's Jiabao: Back Off On South China Sea
« on: November 19, 2011, 10:41:21 PM »
India firmly rejected China's objections to its presence in the South China Sea, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telling Chinese leader Wen Jiabao that Indian interests were "purely commercial" and sovereignty claims must be settled according to international law.
 Questioned by Wen Jiabao on projects involving India in the marine zone that China sees as its strategic backyard during their meeting here on Friday, Singh said India's oil exploration activities were legitimate commercial ventures. Wen raised the issue during a 55-minute meeting with Singh on the sidelines of the Asean summit here and Singh gently but firmly told him, "issues of sovereignty should be resolved according to international laws and practice".
 Sources said the PM's response came during the interaction that saw Wen seek greater coordination between India and China on the agenda of the East Asia summit. Wen's raising of the South China Sea issue with Singh signaled Beijing's growing concerns particularly as it has fought hard to keep this out of the purview of both Asean and East Asia Summits, preferring to deal with the matter bilaterally.
 Addressing Asean leaders during the Asean-China summit later this morning, Wen warned "outside forces" from getting embroiled in the South China Sea dispute. The Chinese uneasiness reflects increased preoccupation with neighbours like Vietnam with whom the Asian giant has not always had peaceful relations. "The dispute which exists among relevant countries in this region over the South China Sea is an issue which has built up for several years," Wen told Asean leaders. "It ought to be resolved through friendly consultations and discussions by countries directly involved. Outside forces should not, under any pretext, get involved," he added.
 China has reason to sweat. Not only is India exploring for oil in areas Beijing feels lie in its territory. China's Asian neighbours and rival claimants to South China Sea want the differing perceptions to become a multilateral issue so they together have a stronger case. And now the US has jumped into the dispute as well by pushing maritime security to the forefront of the East Asia summit. US President Barack Obama, attending his first East Asia Summit here, told PM Singh that this forum should be the premier one to discuss maritime issues, despite China's objections.
The gathering "can be the premier arena for us to be able to work together on a wide range of issues: maritime security or nonproliferation," Obama told Singh. India has raised China's hackles because of an oil exploration agreement with Vietnam, signed during the Vietnamese president's recent visit to New Delhi. A joint statement after that visit said pointedly, "disputes in the East Sea/South China Sea should be resolved by peaceful means... in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2002 Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea."
 The Singh-Wen meeting was characterized as "warm and friendly", with each showering compliments on the other. They covered a range of bilateral and regional issues, said Sanjay Singh, secretary (east), MEA. Both acknowledged business and trade ties to be at the heart of their relationship. Trade is expected to touch $70 billion this year, though Singh pushed for a greater balance. India and China will resume defence dialogue from December, and both leaders hailed the new border mechanism to maintain peace and tranquility.
 Singh told Wen, "We are neighbours and large growing economies of Asia. We should cooperate bilaterally and globally. Whenever we have worked together, say on climate change, we have had a positive impact on the global stage." Singh also briefed Wen on his meeting with Pakistani premier Yousaf Raza Gilani during the SAARC summit in Maldives. In turn, Wen briefed the PM about his meeting with Gilani on the sidelines of the SCO summit. But the PM refrained from bringing up China's activities in PoK, while Wen himself said that the official "resolution" of the stapled visas issue was underway.

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Manmohan To China's Jiabao: Back Off On South China Sea
« on: November 19, 2011, 10:41:21 PM »


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