New Delhi: India today voiced its “concern” over the recent developments in the South China Sea where Chinese and Vietnamese ships are locked in a tense standoff while asserting that freedom of navigation in the high waters should not be impeded.

“We have been following with concern recent developments in the South China Sea. We believe that maintenance of peace, stability, growth and prosperity in the region is of vital interest to the international community,” the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said here.

Calling for a resolution of the issue through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, he said, India “maintains that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea should not be impeded and call for cooperation in ensuring security of sea-lanes and strengthening of maritime security”.

The standoff started earlier this month when China deployed a deep sea oil rig into waters close to the Paracel Islands, which, Vietnam, says belong to it. Vietnamese government immediately dispatched ships.

According to Vietnam, Chinese vessels had repeatedly rammed and fired water cannons at its ships, damaging several of them. However, China insists it is doing nothing wrong, and has said it will continue with its drilling activities in the area.

Significantly, China’s move comes within days of India and Vietnam agreeing to increase presence state-run ONGC Videsh (OVL) in oil blocks in oil and gas rich waters of South China Sea. China has been objecting to India’s oil exploration projects in the disputed waters.

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