Giving a further impetus to the bilateral relationship between India and Vietnam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc participated in a virtual Summit. Although India and Vietnam have their own imperatives in the narrative of their robust bilateral relations, developments in the Indo-Pacific particularly in the South China Sea and also in the Line of Actual Control at the India-China border have added strategic dimension to their bilateral relations
Prime Minister Modi described Vietnam as an important pillar of India’s ‘Act East’ Policy and an important ally of New Delhi’s ‘Indo-Pacific vision’. He further said that India looks at its relationship with Vietnam from a long term and strategic perspective. Prime Minister emphasized that “peace, stability and prosperity are our common objectives in the Indo-Pacific region” and “our participation can contribute significantly to maintain stability and peace in the region.” Prime Minister Modi’s words have resonance in the context of China’s assertive behaviour in the South China Sea where Vietnam has a stake. Endorsing the sentiment of the Indian Prime Minister, the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that upgrading of the bilateral ties to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ level in 2016 had bolstered understanding each other’s vision and interest and issues. “
A number of bilateral documents, agreements and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) were declared and agreed having a bearing on the bilateral relationship between the two countries. These cover the entire spectrum of the bilateral relationship between the two countries. An important document which was adopted by the two Prime Ministers is the ‘India-Vietnam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People’. The Vision document aims “to guide the future development of India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”. The “Plan of Action for period 2021-2023’ focuses at implementing the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. An important announcement made during the meeting is the implementation of the High Speed Guard Boat Manufacturing Project for Vietnam’sBorder Guard Command under the US$ 100 million Defence Line of Credit extended by India to Vietnam. One completed High Speed Guard Boat was handed over to Vietnam, two Boats which are to be manufactured in India were launched; and seven such high speed Boats are to be manufactured in Vietnam.
New Delhi announced a US$ 5 million Grant Assistance for Army Software Park at National Telecommunications University at Nha Trang in Vietnam. The Agreement will facilitate setting up of IT infrastructure at the Army Software Park in Telecommunications University at Nha Trang with provision for training and services in the field of software applications. Some other important announcements made during the Summit include three new Development Partnership projects in heritage conservation, launching of bilateral project for preparing an Encyclopaedia on India-Vietnam Civilizational and Cultural Relations.
Important Memoranda of Understanding which were agreed upon include MoU between India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety which aims to promote mutual cooperation between the regulatory bodies of the two countries in the field of radiation protection and nuclear safety. The MoU between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Indian Institute of Petroleum and Vietnam Petroleum Institute aims to promote cooperation in petroleum research and training. The MoU between Tata Memorial Centre of India and Vietnam National Cancer Hospital envisages promoting exchanges in the areas of training and scientific research, health care services, collaboration in diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients. The MoU between National Solar Federations of India and Vietnam Clean Energy Association is aimed at promoting and exchanging of knowledge, best practices and sharing of information and to explore new business opportunities to promote solar power in India and Vietnam.
A close examination of the agreements and MOUs clearly indicates the philosophy and guiding principle of India’s developmental assistance which is people’s centric driven by both by government and corporate sector. These projects and assistance are aimed to empower Vietnamese people on sustainable basis and are not predatory or mercantilist or exploitative in nature. In recent years there is growing resentment of assistance by some of the donor countries with regard to the hidden aspects of such aids and assistance which at times lead to debt trap and financial hardships. India’s development assistance to Vietnam aims at synergizing win-win cooperation and earning a lasting and durable goodwill of the people and the government.
Script: DR. Rupa Narayan Das, Strategic Analyst