Ambassador: Vietnam central to India’s Act East policy hinh anh 1President Tran Dai Quang (R) received Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Parvathaneni Harish on June 9, 2016 (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA)
– Vietnam is the focus of India’s Act East policy, affirmed Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Parvathaneni Harish in an exclusive interview with the Vietnam News Agency on threshold of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to attend the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit and the 69th anniversary of the Republic Day of India.

Following is the full text of the interview.

Q: Could you please share the purposes and meaning of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to India during the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit from 24-26 January 2018?

A: H.E. Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam is visiting India as a Chief Guest for the Republic Day of India along with 9 other Heads of State/Government of ASEAN Member States to celebrate 25 years of the India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership and to take part in the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit on 25 January 2018.  The Prime Minister would be accompanied by a high level delegation of Ministers and Vice Ministers of different Ministries and Departments of the Government of Vietnam. There would be bilateral delegation level talks between Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Phuc and we expect signing of a few Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding on key areas of bilateral cooperation that would further strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries.   

Q: ASEAN and India established the relations in 1992 and after 25 years, the two sides have set up 30 dialogue mechanisms, including summits and ministerial meetings of many areas. In the period 2015-2018, Vietnam is the coordinator of the relations between ASEAN and India. What is your opinion for the relations and Vietnam’s role?

A: ASEAN is important to India in terms of historical linkages, geographical proximity, cultural ties and the strategic space that we share. It is our extended neighbourhood. Vietnam, an active member of ASEAN is also central to our ‘Act East’ Policy and Vietnam’s role as coordinating country for the India-ASEAN relationship since August 2015 (until 2018) has led to greater engagement between our two countries. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership this year, our two countries have worked in close cooperation to make the many commemorative events successful. These events will culminate in the Commemorative Summit to be held on January 25 2018. This unprecedented initiative is aimed at strengthening ASEAN’s unity and centrality.

The Act East policy became a pivot by broadening India’s relation with ASEAN to defence and security cooperation. Our External Affairs Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj has said that the important markers in our engagement with ASEAN in enhancing our strategic ties are the 3 Cs - Commerce, Connectivity and Culture. India and ASEAN countries are maritime nations, with a rich and glorious history of maritime trade. We have energised our ancient links in a contemporary setting, to become a driving force in Asia's resurgence.

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As a mature and responsible nation, one of our foreign policy interests, is to evolve a regional architecture based on the twin principles of shared security, and shared prosperity. There is complete convergence between Vietnam and India in this regard. This was enunciated by our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in 2015, in his vision of SAGAR (in Hindi it means ‘Ocean’), which stands for “Security and Growth for All in the Region”. It recognises the central role played by the seas and oceans around us in promoting sustainable economic progress in a secure and stable environment.

The Indo Pacific region is increasingly seen as a connectivity pathway - much of the world’s trade passes through these oceans. These waters must not only get better connected, but remain free from traditional and non-traditional threats.

Q: Can you share potentials of cooperation between India-ASEAN in general and India-Vietnam in particular?

A: India and ASEAN share a common vision for global commerce and maritime domain. We look forward to working closely with ASEAN in a range of activities including to develop the Blue Economy, in coastal surveillance, in building off- shore patrolling and humanitarian search and rescue capabilities, hydrographic services, and information sharing for increased maritime domain awareness.

A deeper economic integration with the dynamic ASEAN region, is an important aspect of our Act East Policy. ASEAN is India's 4th largest trading partner, accounting for over 10 percent of India’s total trade. India is ASEAN's 7th largest trading partner. Trade has registered an 8 percent increase in 2016-17, as compared to the previous year. Investment flows have also remained robust. It is our constant endeavour to promote interaction and dialogue among ASEAN and Indian business and industry to further enhance bilateral economic engagement. We have also established a Project Development Fund to encourage Indian companies to develop manufacturing hubs in CLMV countries (Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam). Our offer of a 1 billion USD Line of Credit is another important initiative to enhance physical and digital connectivity between india and ASEAN Member States.

While physical & digital connectivity initiatives are poised to seamlessly integrate us into a greater Indo-ASEAN community, our shared cultural heritage remains a strong emotional bond that binds us. We are focused on promoting greater collaboration among our educational and training institutions, making available greater scholarships and training opportunities to our partners in ASEAN, initiating new Development Partnership projects and investing in the future of our relationship, especially our youth. During the past year of so many milestones in our relations with Vietnam and ASEAN, we have accomplished numerous people-to-people exchanges which is the real bedrock of our friendship.

As far as Vietnam is concerned, we see huge potential for our relationship, especially since its elevation to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Our bilateral trade has seen continuous growth over the past many years, and during 2016-17 has exceeded 10 billion USD for the first time, registering a 30 percent increase over the previous year. Vietnam is the fourth largest trading partner of India amongst ASEAN countries and India is among the top ten trading partners of Vietnam. We are making all efforts to meet the trade target set by our leaders of 15 billion USD by 2020. Many members of Indian business and industry are looking to invest in Vietnam in various sectors including oil and gas, renewable energy such as solar and wind, agriculture and agro-businesses, minerals and mining and textiles. Both countries have strong defence and security cooperation that are strong pillars of our strategic partnership. Education and training cooperation between various wings of our armed forces and defence industry cooperation are emerging as areas of huge potential.  Both countries also have active cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space and atomic energy, science and technology cooperation, cooperation in cyber security and information technology.

Our cultural cooperation has received a significant boost with the opening of an Indian Cultural Centre in Hanoi. An Archaeological Survey of India team is currently in the process of restoration and conservation of the UNESCO world heritage site at My Son.  Their work at the site last year has unearthed numerous artefacts. The huge popularity of yoga and the participation of thousands of Vietnamese during International Day of Yoga celebrations and enhanced tourist exchanges in the recent past are further evidence of growing cultural engagement and people-to-people interaction. - VNA