India and Vietnam have agreed to strengthen bilateral defence and security, agriculture, technology and nuclear, oil, gas and renewable energy cooperation as Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu concluded his four-day visit yesterday (Sunday).
Vietnam has looked to India as a means to counterbalance China’s growing military dominance in the South China Sea.
The allies’ bilateral trade reached almost US$14 billion last year, having nearly doubled from US$7.8 billion in 2015.
The vice president said he was confident of reaching the target of US$15 billion by 2020.
Naidu and Vietnam Prime Minister Phuc expressed commitment to enhancing trade and investments and agreed to enable direct air links to promote tourism, trade and interpersonal relations.
Both countries reiterated their commitment to building a peaceful and prosperous wider region on the basis of respect for national sovereignty and international law, in an apparent reference to China’s flouting of international maritime codes in the South China Sea. The leaders expressed full commitment to transparent trade based on freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded economic activities and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, the joint statement said.
The US has tried to force China to respect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, through which an estimated US$5 trillion in trade passes each year.
But India lacks the military muscle to match the backing that Washington has provided Hanoi in the protracted dispute.
Vietnamese leaders thanked India for extending concessional credit for its defence industry cooperation and implementing other sociocultural infrastructure in Vietnam with Indian grants.
Naidu also reportedly told Phuc that India was ready to partner with Vietnam in satellite construction, both for civilian and non-civilian purposes.
He invited Vietnamese Vice President Thinh to visit India and said relations between India and Vietnam had been strengthened by their bonds of Buddhism and Hinduism.
The Indian delegation also visited the Monument of National Heroes and Martyrs at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.
The vice president was trying to enable the entry of Indian pharmaceuticals into Vietnam and he said Indian companies can provide high-tech health systems and medicines for public health at an affordable cost.
Vietnam and Myanmar also agreed to expand cooperation in areas like their navies, military medicine, defence industry, logistics, search and rescue and crime-fighting.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met Myanmar’s President Win Myint, who said he would work to intensify the partnership with Hanoi, particularly in economy, trade and investment.
India’s navy currently lacks the reach to challenge Beijing’s grip on the South China Sea. Picture credit: Wikimedia