China reacts cautiously to Vietnam Prime Minister's India call

Dec 25, 2012- BEIJING: China was today guarded in its response to Vietnam's appeal to India seeking support in resolving the South China Sea disputes, but expressed hope that all parties would uphold peace and stability in the region.

Asked about Vietnamese Premier Tan Dung's call during the ASEAN-India summit, asking for India's support for full implementation of the declaration of the code of conduct (DOC) in South China Sea dispute with China, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing that Beijing has taken note of New Delhi's reaction in this regard.

Vietnamese Gen Phung Quang Thanh, while expecting more Port Calls by the Indian naval ships, has offered maintenance and repair facilities for Indian naval ships in Vietnam Ports. It can serve both Indian and Vietnamese naval ships as both use Russian equipment.

"We noticed Indian side's remarks and hope that in the spirit of DOC all parties will make joint efforts to uphold peace and stability of the South China Sea," Hua said, answering a question.

Tan sought India's support in getting the dispute resolved under the UN Convention of the Law of Seas.

External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid responded by saying that the issues needed to be resolved between the countries concerned.

Hua also reacted cautiously to India and ASEAN countries' decision to elevate their ties to strategic partnership at the New Delhi summit, saying that improvement in relations between New Delhi and the South East Asian Bloc will contribute to regional peace and stability.

"Both India and ASEAN are important partners of China. We hope improvement of their relations will contribute to the regional peace stability of development," Hua told the media when asked about the just concluded India-ASEAN summit.

The fast improving India-ASEAN relations, however, drew strong reactions in the official media here today.

"India launched a 'Look East Policy' in the early 1990s to push trade links with ASEAN, an approach interpreted by some observers as encircling China," state-run China Daily said in its report.

"India-ASEAN cooperation has been dominated by economic concerns, but political and strategic intentions against a rising China have become more obvious since the beginning of the century," Sun Shihai, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, specialising on India studies told the daily.

Sun, however, said India's partnership with ASEAN should not be interpreted as a move infringing on China's interests.

India's participation in Southeast Asia will also largely expand the market between China and ASEAN, bringing in a great opportunity for economic cooperation and regional integration, Sun said.

"What is important is that India and China should build strategic mutual trust," he said. Despite frequent high-level visits and enormous trade volume, border issues between China and India remain unresolved, he pointed out.

He said China's trade with ASEAN countries is far greater than India's, but India's trade with the South East Asian bloc is also increasing.

China-ASEAN Trade totalled $292.78 billion in 2010 and posted $295.9 billion in the first 10 months of 2011.

Another Chinese strategic analyst Hu Shisheng of the South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said, "if the markets of China, India and Asean join together in free trade and investment, all three will benefit".

Hu said India's partnership with ASEAN highlights its initiative to integrate into the Asia-Pacific region.

"India will not easily involve itself in the islands dispute between China and ASEAN economies," Sun said, noting that "collaboration between India and ASEAN on maritime security was largely India's strategic posture as a countermeasure to China's emerging influence in the Indian Ocean".

The Economic Times