Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu paid a 4-day official visit to Vietnam, which aimed at enhancing India’s comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam. It is common knowledge that India-Vietnam partnership has stood the test of time. Besides interactions with top political leaders of Vietnam, Mr. Naidu took time to address the Indian community at an event and hailed the relationship between the two countries.The Indian Vice President held meetings with his Vietnamese counterpart Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chairwoman of National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Mr. Naidu delivered the keynote address at the 16th United Nations Day of ‘Vesak’ Celebration at Tam Chuc Pagoda in Vietnam’s Ha Nam Province. The event was themed as “Buddhist Approach to Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Sustainable Societies”.
Regular exchange of visits by top political leaders from either country has led bilateral ties to be elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the Indian Prime Minister’s 2016 visit to Vietnam. Vice President Naidu’s visit followed a series of high-level exchanges in 2018 including the visits of Vietnam Prime Minister and President in January 2018 and March 2018 respectively to India. These exchanges have resulted in robust cooperation in several areas, expanded defence and security ties, forged new economic and commercial linkages and deepened people-to-people engagement. The two sides share a common desire to promote peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
Reaching out to Indians overseas has emerged as an important instrument of India’s foreign policy. The Indian Vice President addressed the Indian Community and Friends of India in Hanoi, and stressed Indian government’s priority to reach out to the Indian community overseas.
While having wide-ranging talks with Vietnamese Vice President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh to enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation, Mr. Naidu reiterated the importance of building a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region based on respect for national sovereignty and international law. The strong bilateral relationship between the two countries is based on mutual trust, understanding, and convergence of views on regional and international issues.
Indeed, Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy and India’s key interlocutor in ASEAN and therefore both the countries desire that the concerned countries are able to reach consensus on a Code of Conduct in South China Sea. The Indo-Pacific is a bio-geographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea. The US has conducted a series of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the disputed South China Sea,triggering protests from Beijing over what it says is infringement of sovereignty. While China claims this oceanic space almost in its entirety, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to the area falling in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). This turns the South China Sea into a potential flashpoint.
At the bilateral level, the Indo-Vietnam ties have assumed robustness in many areas making the relationship multifaceted. Both the countries are strengthening 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.
Bilateral trade stands at present at $14 billion. It doubled from $7.8 billion three years ago. Both New Delhi and Hanoi have put a target to reach at $15 billion by 2020. Given the past trend, it seems to be achievable.
Connectivity has remained an issue for quite some time. At the moment, there is no direct flight between New Delhi and Hanoi. Earlier, it was found not commercially viable. However, direct air connectivity between the two capitals could be a possibility with an Indian carrier deciding to start direct flight between the two capitals later in 2019. When materialized, both would have crossed another frontier as this would further boost trade and tourism exchanges.
Script: Prof. Rajaram Panda, Lok Sabha Research Fellow, Parliament of India.