In an interview granted to Vietnam News Agency, Secretary (East) of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Preeti Saran highlighted the fact that relations between India and Vietnam are historical and civilizational, spanning over 2,000 years, and succeeding generations of leaders have forged strong friendship and cooperation between the two countries based on mutual trust, congruence of views on regional and international affairs and strong people-to-people and cultural linkages.
It is therefore not surprising that India and Vietnam have a comprehensive strategic partnership, she said, noting that over the years, aided by strategic convergences and robust economic growth in both countries, the two countries’ bilateral relationship has strengthened and broadened to include a large number of areas.
According to her, the most tangible outcomes have emerged in the fields of security and defence cooperation. For India, Vietnam is the second largest export destination in ASEAN. Total trade now exceeds 10 billion USD, the official said, noting her belief that with mutual efforts, it would maintain its upward movement.
Preeti Saran noted that the visit by the President of Vietnam to India is taking place after a gap of over 6 years, the last visit being by President Truong Tan Sang in October 2011. It is also the first bilateral State visit from the Vietnamese side since the very successful visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Vietnam in September 2016, though Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited India in January 2018 for the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit.
“The visit is timely given that the two countries celebrated the year 2017 as the Year of Friendship, commemorating 45 years of the establishment of their diplomatic relations, 10 years of establishment of our Strategic Partnership and 25 years of the India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership. Vietnam has also been the ASEAN coordinator country for India for the period 2015-18,” she said.
The official stressed that Vietnam is a key pillar of India’s Act East policy and of its engagement with ASEAN. Bilateral economic ties with Vietnam have helped in expansion of India-ASEAN ties, she said, adding that India remains committed to an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture through enhanced maritime engagement.
“We are committed to work together for achieving a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where sovereignty and international law are respected and differences are resolved through dialogue,” she said.
Preeti Saran reiterated that defence and economic cooperation is the central pillar of Vietnam-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and is progressing well. She underlined that economic ties between the two countries have risen multifold over the years, and bilateral trade has crossed 10 billion USD and both sides are committed to achieving the trade target of 15 billion USD by 2020. Both countries are implementing agreements and MOUs on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy and Outer Space, Information and Communications cooperation, Health, Cyber Security and exchange of White Shipping information. India is also ready to collaborate further with Vietnam in the areas of atomic energy and space.
According to the official, in months and years ahead, there are new opportunities for growth and strengthening of relations between the two nations.
“We will continue to enhance our economic and cultural engagement. We need to redouble our efforts to reach the trade target of 15 billion USD by 2020. We also need to further expand our cooperation in such fields as oil and gas, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, space, defence, etc. This would strengthen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Simultaneously, we will continue to cooperate with each other in the multilateral fora, especially in dealing with complex challenges of today such as counter-terrorism,” she said.
Pointing out that both India and Vietnam have common perspectives on peace, stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region and are committed to the centrality of ASEAN in the regional security and economic architecture, she said India believes it should be inclusive, open and based on the principles of international law.
“We will continue to support freedom of navigation and overflight and peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues in the region,” the Secretary concluded.