Vietnam, India to expand oil exploration in East Sea

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India and Vietnam signed an agreement to expand joint oil and gas exploration in Vietnam's East Sea.

ONGC Videsh Ltd., a unit of India's biggest explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corp., and Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, known as PetroVietnam, signed a three-year pact that aims to increase the countries' investment in exploration and production.

ONGC Videsh Managing Director D.K. Sarraf said the company may bid in an auction of nine blocks being offered by Vietnam, which closes on Jan. 26.

The agreement was signed in New Delhi Wednesdayfollowing talks between visiting Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The leaders agreed to boost two-way investment and target annual bilateral trade of $7 billion by 2015 from $2.7 billion in 2010.

"The two sides also affirmed the need for maintenance of peace and stability as well as guarantee of safety and security of maritime transportation in the East Sea," Sang said, using the Vietnamese name for the maritime region. "We agreed that all the disputes in the Eastern Sea should be settled by peaceful negotiations."

ONGC Videsh already holds a 45 percent stake in Block 06.1 off Vietnam and fully owns Block 128 in the country's waters.

India and Vietnam also signed on Wednesday an extradition treaty, and said they will boost cooperation in energy, science and technology, information and communications.

"A strong India-Vietnam partnership is a factor of peace, stability and development in the Asia-Pacific region," Singh said at a joint press interaction with Sang. "It is a partnership that stands on its own merits."

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