" India had then voiced concern over the South China Sea tensions and stressed that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be impeded, and urged for cooperation to ensure the security of sea-lanes and strengthening of maritime security."
By Ranjana Narayan

Hanoi, Aug 25 - Lauding India for its indispensable and inseparable role in southeast Asia and on the world stage, Vietnam Monday made a strong pitch for India to play a larger role in ASEAN in maintaining maritime safety and security and in settling territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas where it is locked in a bitter stand-off with China.

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, addressing the Third Round Table on ASEAN-India Network of Thinktanks, also welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reaffirmation of India's Look East Policy and cooperation with ASEAN.

Pham, who in the morning discussed the issue of the South China Sea and the increasing territorial disputes with Beijing with the Indian heads of mission of regional countries gathered here, said he had held fruitful and in-depth discussions on regional and bilateral issues with visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Stressing on India's growing importance in the regional architecture, Pham said the cooperation between India and ASEAN needs to be more effective and efficient as the security and development landscape is experiencing swift and complex conversions.

He noted that ethnic and religious tensions and territorial disputes, particularly the East Sea (the South China Sea) and the East China Sea have become more complicated with far reaching implications.

He said the top priority was for ASEAN and India to work more closely together to ensure an open, inclusive, sustainable and transparent regional architecture for peace and stability in Asia.

Noting that India-ASEAN future development and integration lie in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean he said both sides should focus more on maintaining maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and settling territorial disputes through peaceful means on the basis of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982.

The Vietnamese minister also stressed on closer economic and trade linkages and connectivity and people-to-people ties between ASEAN and India.

Sushma Swaraj's visit to Vietnam is to lay the groundwork for President Pranab Mukherjee's state visit to this Southeast Asian country next month just days ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's India visit.

Relations between China and Vietnam have been tense for the past few months after Beijing installed an oil rig in May in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands, which is claimed by Hanoi.

India had then voiced concern over the South China Sea tensions and stressed that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be impeded, and urged for cooperation to ensure the security of sea-lanes and strengthening of maritime security.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at [email protected])


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