Bali: India firmly rejected China's objections to its presence in the East Sea or the South China Sea, as the Chinese refer to it, with prime minister Manmohan Singh telling Chinese leader Wen Jiabao that Indian interests were "purely commercial" and sovereignty claims must be settled according to international law.
Apparently questioned by Wen Jiabao on projects involving India in the area Singh said India's oil exploration activities were legitimate commercial ventures. China lays claim to virtually the entire South China Sea area as its territorial waters and also considers it as its strategic backyard.
According to reports, Wen raised the issue during a 55-minute meeting with Singh on the sidelines of the Asean summit here and was told that "issues of sovereignty should be resolved according to international laws and practice".
Wen was seeking greater coordination between India and China on the agenda of the East Asia summit as China fought hard to keep the contentious issue out of the purview of both Asean and East Asia Summits, preferring to deal with the matter bilaterally.
Addressing Asean leaders during the Asean-China summit later this morning, Wen warned "outside forces" from getting embroiled in the South China Sea dispute.
"The dispute which exists among relevant countries in this region over the South China Sea is an issue which has built up for several years," Wen told Asean leaders. "It ought to be resolved through friendly consultations and discussions by countries directly involved. Outside forces should not, under any pretext, get involved," he added.