Sri Lanka joins Indian Ocean strategy talks at Vietnam forum
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is participating in conference to develop regional co-operation in the Indian Ocean held in Vietnam, a country that has suffered from China’s controversial restrictions on resources, free navigation and fishing in the seas off the country.
The third Indian Ocean Conference is being held in Ha Noi to develop regional architectures to co-operate in security, trade commercial administration in the context of the strategic and economic importance of the region, a statement said.
The Indian Ocean Conference was founded three years ago with India, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam is hosting the conference with the India Foundation, a Delhi-based research centre from August 27 to 28.
India has seen closer trade relations with Vietnam in recent years with two-trade reaching 13 billion US dollars in 2017.
Shortly before he left Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe gave assurances to the visiting Defense Minister of Japan that Sri Lanka was committed to freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean as China has bought in to a loss-making port in finance at the Southern tip of the island near the busiest East-West sea route.
China has rammed Vietnamese fishing boats in the waters off its coast and has kept hold of Paracel Islands (Hoàng Sa) it gained control during the latter stages of Vietnam War after fighting with soldiers of South Vietnam. South Vietnam protested in the United Nations but China had veto power.
In 1979, China also invaded the unified Vietnam and came up to Ha Noi, but later withdrew.
In recent years Vietnam had been forced to stop exploring for oil in its exclusive economic zone off-shore while its fishermen are also harassed by Chinese naval vessels.
China has also claimed seas which are also claimed by Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Philippines won an international arbitration case it filed under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but China has rejected the ruling causing concerns, about the fate of small nations in the face of militarily powerful larger neighbhours.
Amid percieved lack of respect by China for international law there were mass-protests in Vietnam earlier this year after the goverment announced plans to give 99-year leases for investors.