India emphasises navigation freedom in S China Sea



Mumbai: India on Saturday called upon nations having territorial disputes in South China Sea, including China, to settle issues through dialogue, even as it emphasised on freedom of navigation through these waters.

The world's important maritime hot spot has in the recent months witnessed flare-ups between China and other nations over their territorial claims in the region.

"There should be unhindered freedom of passage and navigation to all ships in international waters. At the same time, issues between countries should be sorted out through dialogue, discussion and persuasion without any confrontation," Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters after the induction ceremony of warship INS Sahyadri here.

China claims sovereignty over the South China Sea and contests Vietnamese claims to two strategic islands and its exclusive economic zones where India has been prospecting for oil at the bidding of Hanoi.

India has been keen on oil exploration in the South China Sea and had taken interest in blocks belonging to Vietnam, but later withdrew from some of the projects. China had openly expressed its displeasure over India's engagement in oil exploration in the region.

Indian warships that have ventured into South China Sea have been frequently confronted by Chinese warships.

A flotilla of four Indian warships sailed to the Chinese port of Shanghai through South China Sea in June this year. India was pleasantly surprised when the ships were provided an escort for a day by a Chinese People's Liberation Army (Navy) warship while passing through these waters.

IANS