President of India Ram Nath Kovind. (Photo timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

Hanoi (VNA) – Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s upcoming visit to Vietnam from November 18-20,  his first trip to the country and Asia since taking office in July 2017, is of great importance to strengthening and developing the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership.

Vietnam and India officially established diplomatic relations on January 7 in 1972. In 1954, India opened a consulate general in Hanoi, and two years later, Vietnam inaugurated its consulate general in New Delhi. The two countries set up the strategic partnership in 2007 and elevated it to comprehensive strategic partnership in September 2016.

The Vietnam-India comprehensive strategic partnership has been growing fruitfully. Political trust has been increased as a result of the regular exchange of visits and meetings between their high-ranking officials and at all levels via Party, State, National Assembly, locality, and people-to-people exchange channels.

In March 2018, President Tran Dai Quang paid a State visit to India, while Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited India to attend the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit and celebrations of the 69th anniversary of Republic Day of India in January 2018. Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Vietnam in June and August 2018, respectively.

Vietnam and India have built and upheld effective cooperation mechanisms. The Vietnam-India inter-governmental committee for economic, commercial, scientific and technological cooperation has to date convened 16 meetings, with the latest taking place in Hanoi in August 2018. The two countries organised their 10th political consultation and 7th strategic dialogue in New Delhi from April 8-10, 2018.   

Bilateral defence ties have been expanded between their navies, ground and air forces, focusing on personnel training, defence industry and ship visits. The two sides held their first deputy ministerial level security dialogue in July 2018. They have increased the exchange of experiences and information in criminal science as well as in the fight against transnational crimes, drug trafficking, cyber and hi-tech crimes, and terrorism.

Vietnam and India supported each other at multilateral forums like the Asia-Europe Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Minister's Meeting Plus, and the United Nations. The two nations backed each other’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the UN Human Rights Council. Vietnam backed India's bid for a permanent seat when the UN Security Council is enlarged as well as its Act East policy and initiatives for the development of the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation.

India values the importance of peace, stability, safety, security, freedom of navigation and aviation; peaceful settlement of disputes; observance of international law; and building of an effective and legally-binding Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Aside from sound relations in politics-diplomacy and defence-security, bilateral economic-trade partnerships have enjoyed significant strides in recent years. India is among the top ten trade partners of Vietnam.

Bilateral trade enjoyed an annual average growth rate of 16 percent from 2008 to 2013. The figure hit 8.3 billion USD between January and September 2018, up 4.1 percent from the same period last year. The two countries are working to lift bilateral trade to 15 billion USD in 2020.

As of October 2018, India poured 876.73 million USD into Vietnam, ranking 26th among 127 countries and territories directly investing in the Southeast Asian nation. Vietnam, meanwhile, is investing in 7 projects worth 6.15 million USD in India. Both nations are members of the ASEAN-India Investment Agreement within the framework of the ASEAN-India free trade agreement.

Cultural cooperation between the sides has been boosted with the establishment of the Indian cultural centre and centre for Indian studies in Hanoi in 2016 and of the centre for Vietnamese studies in New Delhi in March 2018.

Vietnam and India have also boasted huge potential for tourism development. Almost 120,000 Indians toured Vietnam in 2017, up 30 percent year on year, and the number is expected to reach 150,000 – 170,000 this year. Meanwhile, the South Asian nation welcomes some 20,000 Vietnamese tourists every year.

Bilateral cooperation in agriculture, oil and gas, electricity, nuclear energy has also recorded positive progresses.-VNA