Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi (Source: indianexpress.com)

Hanoi (VNA)
- Strong trust, mutual understanding and convergence of views mark longstanding India-Vietnam ties, Ambassador Harish Parvathaneni told Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties (January 7, 1972 - January 7, 2017).

Q: Can you give us a review of bilateral cooperation between Vietnam and India?

A: The civilisational relationship between India and Vietnam spans over 2000 years, and the advent of Buddhism from India to Vietnam and the remnants of the Hindu Champa civilisation in Vietnam stand testimony to this fact. Our monks, traders and peoples interacted over centuries and intense cultural exchanges have left their imprint on our daily lives and activities. During our respective freedom struggles, the founding fathers of our nations were in close contact, laying the foundation of trust and friendship; a valued relationship that successive generations of leaders have nurtured and built upon during Vietnam’s phase of national reunification and national reconstruction.

In 2017, the two countries are celebrating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of our Strategic Partnership. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vietnam in September 2016, he and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc took the historic step to elevate the relationship to that of ‘Strategic Comprehensive Partnership’, a clear indication of the importance the two countries place on their relationship of long-standing traditional friendship.

The recent years have witnessed a number of visits of leaders from both sides, including at the highest political levels. We enjoy good relations between political parties and legislative institutions and have established bilateral cooperation mechanisms. The relations between the two countries are marked by strong trust, mutual understanding and convergence of views on various international issues and the regional security situation in Asia.

Our leaders have emphasised that enhancing bilateral economic engagement is a strategic objective. Bilateral trade is growing at a healthy pace and is currently around 8 billion USD; our leaders have set a trade target of 15 billion USD by 2020, and both sides are committed to achieving it. India is keen on increasing its investments in Vietnam, which is currently over 1.2 billion USD, and would be tripling in a few years once some large infrastructure investments reach fruition. We would similarly like to invite Vietnamese business and industry to look at India as an attractive investment destination. We have identified priority areas for cooperation: hydrocarbons, power generation, renewable energy, infrastructure, tourism, textiles, footwear, medical services and pharmaceuticals, ICT, electronics, agriculture, agro-products, chemicals, machine tools and other supporting industries.

The relationship between our leadership, peoples, governments, legislatures and political parties is very strong and we remain committed to take it to greater heights

Q: Please tell us about India’s Act East Policy and Vietnam’s role therein.

A: 2017 also marks the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations. India has been a dialogue partner of ASEAN since 1992 and was accorded strategic partner status in 2012. Vietnam is an important pillar of India’s ‘Act East Policy’. Vietnam has consistently supported the policy and welcomes a greater role for India in the regional and international arena. The ‘Act East’ policy was crystallised to underscore the importance of East Asian neighbours of India and to make them a priority in our foreign policy. Our Act East policy looks beyond the traditional paradigm and aims to forge alliances with our eastern neighbors to encompass security, strategic, political, counterterrorism, and defense collaboration in addition to economic ties. Vietnam is an integral member of ASEAN and plays an important role in our Act East policy. Vietnam is ASEAN’s Coordinator for ASEAN-India Dialogue Relations from 2015 to 2018 and this would further facilitate closer cooperation between the two sides. India has pledged 1 billion USD Line of Credit for enhancing digital and physical connectivity between India and ASEAN. We also look at Vietnam’s cooperation and support towards an early realisation of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Q: What can Vietnam and India do in the near future to materialise the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between two countries?

A: The elevation of the Strategic Partnership between the two countries to that of ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ is a clear indication of the goodwill, trust and importance the two countries place on their relationship. It is also an acknowledgment of the existing strong bilateral defense and security ties and our mutual desire to contribute to regional peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity.

The partnership covers a wide variety of topics including cooperation in development, political exchanges, defense and security, human resource development, commercial and economic ties, cultural exchanges, scholarships and Official Development Assistance.

The partnership between the two countries is extremely vibrant and dynamic; however, to fully realise the potential of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership a lot more has to be done. Both sides are committed to achieve the trade target of 15 billion USD by having greater trade and industry exchanges at the business and government levels and to remove all impediments to trade with a focus on priority areas identified by our leaders. We also desire to enhance mutual investments in key sectors.

Defence is an important component of our relationship and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Vietnam in 2016 announced a new Defence Line of Credit for Vietnam of 500 million USD for facilitating deeper defense industry cooperation. The bilateral defence cooperation includes exchange of high level visits, annual high-level dialogues, service-to-service cooperation, naval ship visits, extensive training and capacity building, defence equipment procurement and related transfer of technology, and cooperation at regional fora such as ADMM-Plus.

The two countries will benefit immensely by having direct flight and shipping connectivity. It is encouraging that in 2017, Vietjet would be starting direct flights to India. The banking and financial sector linkages are being enhanced for facilitating more intensive economic engagement. 2016 witnessed the opening of a branch of Bank of India in HCM City and we are happy that this month, Bank of India also received its licence for international foreign exchange transactions which will assist Indian business and industry in Vietnam.

India has an active portfolio of human resource development and capacity building in Vietnam in IT, English language training, entrepreneurship development, high-performance computing and other areas of Science and Technology. The two countries are also collaborating in Peaceful uses of Nuclear Technology, and a Framework Agreement on this was signed during the recent visit of Chairperson of National Assembly, Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan to India in December, 2016. We are also collaborating on the Exploration of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes and we signed a Framework Agreement for the same during the visit of Prime Minister Modi last year.

We need to further enhance our people to people contact by promoting tourism and culture. There is a need for more cultural exchanges. The newly opened Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) in Hanoi would enable the people of Vietnam to get easy access to information on culture and tourism of India, and would also serve to showcase Indian culture and performing arts. We are already successfully conducting classical dance, music and yoga classes in the ICC. The library at the center is open to public giving them access to various volumes of select Indian literature and books. We would soon be expanding our activities to have exhibitions and other cultural programs and events at the center.

The Indian Embassy gives out numerous scholarships to Vietnamese citizens especially under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. Presently, 150 ITEC slots are being offered to Vietnam every year along with 16 scholarships under the General Cultural Scholarship Scheme (GCSS), 14 scholarships under the Educational Exchange Programme (EEP) and 10 scholarships under the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Scholarship Scheme.

It is only with such a multi-pronged approach that we can actualise the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries and harness the true potential for greatness of our countries and peoples.-VNA