Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy

The exchange of high-level visits from both the sides will further strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between New Delhi and Hanoi, writes PRITI PRAKASH

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The visit of Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India, to Vietnam on the Vesak day, a celebration to mark the birth, death and enlighten day of Lord Buddha tells a lot about the growing relations between the two countries. Vice President Naidu, on the invite of his counterpart in Vietnam, was due to deliver the keynote address at the 16th UN Day of Vesak Celebrations in Ha Nam province.

Vietnam is considered a civilizational friend and trusted partner, a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy and our key interlocutor in ASEAN. The exchange of high-level visits from both the sides will further strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. India and Vietnam, today, have a strong bilateral relationship based on mutual trust, understanding, convergence of views on regional and international issues.

Significantly Buddhism has been a strong bond uniting our two peoples and nations. Indians reached the shores of this beautiful country two millennia ago with the message of Lord Buddha, of peace and compassion. The remains of the Champa civilization attest to the exchanges of people, goods, ideas and philosophies.

The talks between VP Naidu and Vice President of Vietnam Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh covered the whole range of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. They agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in defence and security, peaceful uses of atomic energy and outer space, science and technology, oil and gas, renewable energy, infrastructure development, agriculture and innovation-based sectors.

The Ambassador of Vietnam to India, in an interaction to Foreign Correspondents said that relations with India thrives on 6 pillars. Political which includes regular exchange of high level visits, Defence and security, Economic, Scientific cooperation, and education and people to people ties. In a significant move the post of Ambassador of Vietnam to India has been upgraded from joint secretary to ministerial level in order to substantiate comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and India.

Defence cooperation

The bilateral defence and security cooperation between the two countries is robust and both are further committed to strengthen it. India is providing extensive and sustained training support to Vietnamese Armed Forces and the implementation of the Line of Credit of US Dollars 100 million for building high speed patrol vessels for Vietnamese Border Guards is progressing satisfactorily. India has reviewed the implementation of the Line of Credit of US Dollars 500 million for defence industry cooperation announced during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in 2016.

Training by the three arms of the services has been extended by India to the armed forces of Vietnam which include training pilots, people and in English language, Ambassador Chau informed. On port call two Vietnamese ships are visiting Indian port, Chiefs of the 3 arms of the 2 countries visit each other on a regular basis. Talks on buying defence equipment’s from India may be a possibility.

Economics and trade

The bilateral economic engagement during the last few years between India and Vietnam has facilitated business and industry to harness the growing opportunities in both countries and in the region. Bilateral trade stood at nearly US $14 billion last year having doubled from US Dollars 7.8 billion three years ago. It is targeted to reach US Dollars 15 billion by 2020.

Presently there is no big investment from India in Vietnam except ONGC. Its same for IT. Ambassador Chau informed, IT major HCL is opening in Vietnam with a big ambition to create 10,000 jobs. Vietnam standing in top 5 in PISA which is an education indicator, people are smart in maths and physics and can potentially produce smart engineers. HCL will train 10,000 engineers who will work in the interest of India for America, he said.

ONGC is doing very well in Vietnam, some exploration is going on. According to agreements between the countries we try to provide all necessary support, not just Indian but all foreign countries operating in Vietnam to enjoy all privileges, he said with reference to China.

Connectivity woes over

Ambassador of Vietnam to India Pham Sanh Chau informed that travel will becomes easier with direct air connectivity between our two countries with Indian civil aviation carrier Indigo starting direct flights between India and Vietnam later this year. This step would go a long way in boosting bilateral trade and tourism exchanges.

Chau also informed about Visa on arrival facility granted to India which is soon to be launched through a platform. Through a single getaway by clicking on the website, the visitor will be required to complete a form which will be sent to the concerned authorities. The platform incorporates secure technology in order to safeguard maximum personal information. It is developed by an Indian company and will be operated by VFS.

Indo Pacific

Indo Pacific being a serious issue both countries are on the same page to build a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region on the basis of respect for national sovereignty and international law. It is expected that the concerned countries are able to reach consensus on a Code of Conduct in South China Sea. Vice President Naidu insisted that both countries are fully committed to an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture based on freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded economic activities and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the international law.

‘Our foreign policy principal is that Vietnam is friends with all countries in the world community and will like to be a responsible and trusted partner with the international community. With a new reform policy in the last 3 decades Vietnam has been able to move out of isolation which were imposed by all the hostile forces to be able to normalise its relations with China, USA, ASEAN and have signed an agreement with EU. Interestingly all these countries are now strategic partners of Vietnam. Vietnam has good relations with all including the big countries of the world,” Chau said.

Jaipur Foot: India for Humanity

As Comprehensive Strategic Partners, India and Vietnam are reliable developmental partners and stronger than before. The ongoing Jaipur Foot Artificial Limb Fitment Camp in Quang Ninh Province is a prime example of this. Under the ‘India for Humanity’ programme organized in commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi, the Government of India is supporting the organization of Jaipur Foot Camp in the provinces of Quang Ninh and Yen Bai of Vietnam.

Education

India will continue with the ongoing long-term and short duration scholarships and training programmes provided under ITEC programme and by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. These programmes have been effectively used in the agriculture sector, making a tangible difference in the lives of the Vietnamese people.

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