India, ASEAN elevate ties to strategic partnership
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With India and ASEAN agreeing to elevate their relations to a strategic partnership, Vietnam Thursday sought New Delhi's "support" in the "full implementation" of the code of conduct in South China Sea.
"I hope India supports ASEAN in the full implementation of the declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea and the six-point principle on South China Sea in order to settle disputes peacefully as per international law," Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said at the Indo-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in New Delhi.
Furious over Chinese passports showing the South China Sea as part of Chinese waters, Vietnam had last month issued staple visas to travellers to the neighbouring country, an idea copied from India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who chaired the summit, called his Vietnamese counterpart's comments "constructive". But Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, when asked about India's position on the issue, said "sometimes doing something about conflict is about not doing something".
Barring Vietnam, none of the 10 members of ASEAN mentioned China; they instead talked about strengthening cooperation on maritime security, as was duly reflected in the vision statement adopted at the summit. "We are committed to strengthening cooperation to ensure maritime security and freedom of navigation and safety of sea lanes of communication for unfettered movement of trade in accordance with international law," the statement read.
India, meanwhile, has become the fourth country, after after China, Japan and South Korea, to enter into a strategic partnership with ASEAN. "I am very happy that we have decided to elevate our relationship to a strategic partnership. This is a historic step, and together with the conclusion of negotiations on free trade agreement in services and investments, defines a qualitatively new paradigm of our partnership. It is a natural progression of the journey we embarked on together in 1992 and it will serve our relationship well in the next decade and beyond," Singh said.