By: Dr. RUPA NARAYAN DAS, Strategic Analyst on Asia
Taking the ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ between India and Vietnam to greater heights, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a telephonic conversation, congratulated the newly appointed Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh. Mr. Modi expressed confidence that the partnership between the two countries will become stronger under his able guidance. Vietnam’s parliament had voted in April this year to make Pham Minh Chinh, the country’s new Prime Minister. The outgoing Prime Minister Nguen Xuan Phuc was appointed as the President. Mr. Chinh was earlier a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Central Committee for personnel and organisation and has had a mixed career in party apparatus and its security sector.
Felicitating Mr. Phan Minh Chinh on the assumption of office, Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s stated position that India and Vietnam share a similar vision of an open, inclusive, peaceful, and rules-based world order and the strategic Indian Ocean Region. He stressed that India-Vietnam comprehensive strategic Partnership can contribute to promote regional stability, prosperity, and development.
Prime Minister Modi’s emphasis on inclusive, peaceful, and rule-based Indian Ocean Region has resonance in the context of the emergence of the Indo-Pacific for protection and promotion of freedom of navigation. Recent media reports indicate that China plans to deploy one of its “largest-ever” oceanographic research and training vessels in the Paracel Islands. Vietnam views Chinese activities in the Islands without its permission as “illegal”.
The Indian Prime Minister thanked his Vietnamese counterpart for the valuable support provided by the government and people of Vietnam during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Both leaders agreed that the two countries should continue consultation and cooperation to support each other’s efforts against the pandemic. The two leaders also reviewed the state of the bilateral relations and shared their views on different areas of cooperation. The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Both leaders agreed to celebrate the historic occasion in a befitting manner through various commemorative activities. Prime Minister Modi also invited Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to visit India at an early date. It augurs well that despite the pandemic which has constrained physical meetings; the apex leadership of two countries are meeting virtually at regular intervals and the institutional mechanisms are also engaging virtually. In December last year, Prime Minister Modi and the then Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguen Xuan Phuc had interacted virtually.
The Indian Prime Minister described Vietnam as an important pillar of India’s ‘Act East’ Policy and an important ally of its Indo-Pacific vision. He further said that India looks at its relationship with Vietnam from a long-term and strategic perspective. He 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.”
During the Virtual Summit, a number of bilateral documents, agreements, and Memorandum of Understanding were declared and agreed upon, that have a bearing on the bilateral relationship between the two countries. These Agreements and MoUs cover the entire spectrum of the bilateral relationship between the two countries. An important document which was adopted by the two Prime Ministers is ‘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 Border Guard Command under the US$ 100 million Defence Line of Credit extended by India to Vietnam. This package has three components. One completed High-Speed Guard Boat was handed over to Vietnam, two Boats that are to be manufactured in India have been launched, and seven such high-speed Boats are to be manufactured in Vietnam.
At the institutional level, the 17th Joint Commission Meeting between External Affairs Minister of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar, and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Vietnam, Mr. Pham Binh Minh was held in August last year, virtually. A virtual Bilateral Meeting between Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) of India Mr. Rajnath Singh and Minister of National Defence of Vietnam, General Ngo Xuan Lich was held in November 2020. These are part of regular bilateral exchanges at the highest political levels.