New Delhi: The South China Sea is the property of the world and must be free for trade to prosper, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said on Friday after China warned India against exploring oil in the area.

"India maintains that South China Sea is the property of the world. Those trade ways must be free from any national interference. It has to be used for increasing trade related activities among nations which come within the range of the South China Sea," Krishna told reporters.

He said this fact has been accepted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and by China in their dialogue with ASEAN group of nations. "India subscribes to the theory that these trade ways should be free for trade to prosper," he said. China on Thursday asked New Delhi not to get involved in the "disputes". It said the sovereignty of the islands in the region was a major issue and India should not carry out oil exploration till the resolution of the vexed issue. Krishna denied reports of a strained relationship between India and China.

"There is absolutely no strained relation between India and China. During the BRICS summit, Chinese President Hu Jintao was in Delhi and we had very cordial talks with him and I totally reject that theory," he added.