Vietnam, India maintain close bilateral relations

08:16 | 28/08/2016 Cooperation

(VEN) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Vietnam next month. This will be the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister in 15 years. On this special occasion, Vietnam Economic News’ Phung Phung interviewed Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Parvathaneni Harish to get his views on the visit as well as the bilateral relations.

Vietnam, India maintain close bilateral relations

Vietnam and India established ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations in January 1972. The relationship has continuously improved and was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2007. Next year, the two countries will celebrate the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations and 10 years of the strategic partnership.

What do you think of the Indian prime minister’s forthcoming visit to Vietnam this September?

High level political visits have established a comprehensive agenda for our strategic partnership and for expanding cooperation in numerous fields of economy, science and technology, defense and security and people-to-people exchanges. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Hanoi next month. This will be the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister in 15 years and both sides are working on an ambitious agenda to further enhance the depth and scope of our engagement in numerous sectors including health, industry and commerce, space, science and technology, agriculture, defense and security.  

The Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has focused on its Act East policy in which our strategic partnership with Vietnam is a major pillar. Vietnam is also the coordinator country for the India-ASEAN relationship and we look forward to intense engagement with Vietnam and ASEAN in the period ahead.

Could you share India’s assistance for Vietnam within the ASEAN framework?

India has also been providing assistance for Vietnam within the ASEAN framework. The Government of India announced the establishment of the India-CLMV [Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam] Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) Revolving Fund with an annual contribution of US$1 million (US$250,000 per country), to give fresh impetus to the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) framework. Under this initiative, short gestation projects will be undertaken with grant assistance from India to directly benefit local communities. Five such projects have been approved for Vietnam in 2016.

India has set up certain centers under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) such as Vietnam-India Entrepreneurship Development Center (VIEDC) which provides technical assistance for the Government of Vietnam in entrepreneurship development; Vietnam-India English Language Training Centre (VICELT) in Da Nang and Vietnam-India Center for English Language and Information Technology Training at the Telecommunications University, Nha Trang.

India and Vietnam are in advanced stages of discussions over the establishment of a Center for Excellence in Software Development and Training in Ho Chi Minh City and a Satellite Tracking and Telemetry Center (TTC) and Image Processing Facility. We would shortly be making concrete announcements about the establishment of these facilities. Prime Minister Modi has also announced a US$1 billion Line of Credit for enhancing digital and physical connectivity between India and ASEAN and we expect new projects in Vietnam to be taken up under this initiative.  

What do you think are the key elements to promote economic cooperation between the two countries?

Our economic engagement covers trade, mutual investments and cooperation in regional and multilateral fora. India is one of Vietnam’s top ten trading partners, whereas Vietnam is India’s fifth largest trading partner in ASEAN. It is a very important market for Indian exports. In the financial year 2015-16 the bilateral trade stood at US$7.83 billion. Both sides have set a target of bilateral trade at US$15 billion by 2020 and are working to achieve this goal.

During the visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to India in October 2014, both our prime ministers decided to focus on economic engagement as a strategic objective. Five key sectors, identified as the thrust areas, include garment and textile, pharmaceuticals, agro-commodities, leather and footwear, and engineering.  In recent years, trade in services and project exports have also emerged as a focus area in the bilateral relationship.

Indian companies are evincing keen interest in the renewable energy sector in Vietnam, especially solar and wind energy. Prime Minister Modi has unveiled an ambitious plan for deployment of 175GW renewable power capacities by 2022, including 100GW of solar and 60GW of wind. We believe that both India and Vietnam would immensely benefit from enhancing the share of renewable energy in the overall power generation. As far as investments are concerned, Indian investments in Vietnam are around US$1.07 billion in 132 projects. Major sectors of investment are oil and gas, renewable energy, mineral exploration, agro-processing, sugar manufacturing, agro-chemicals, information technology, and auto components. The largest current Indian investor in Vietnam is ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and with M/s Tata Power working to set up the 1320MW Long Phu II thermal power plant involving investment of US$2.2 billion, our investment is set to rise.

Vietnam has five investment projects in India with total investment of over US$23 million in the field of pharmaceuticals, import-export activities, building materials, cosmetics, chemicals, and information technology. There is tremendous scope for Vietnam to increase its investments in India. One of the leading flagship programs of Prime Minister Modi is ‘Make in India’, part of a wider set of nation-building initiatives devised to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub, in which 25 sectors have been identified in which India has global competence. Vietnam can easily capitalize on this initiative of the Indian government and avail world class facilities for manufacturing and design in India.

Cultural exchange and people-to-people links help us learn more deeply about each other’s countries. Could you name some prominent programs organized by the embassy in this connection?

Our civilizational relationship spans over 2,000 years and the advent of Buddhism to Vietnam and the remnants of the Hindu Champa civilization in Vietnam stand testimony. Our monks and traders interacted over centuries and cultural exchanges have left their imprint on our daily lives and activities. In an effort to preserve this history for posterity, the Archeological Survey of India will be assisting the Vietnamese government in the conservation of the Cham monuments in My Son.

We are actively collaborating with Vietnam in human resource development, training and education. The Institute for Indian and South-West Asian Studies under the aegis of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences was inaugurated in Hanoi in 2012. During President Pranab Mukherjee’s state visit to Vietnam in September 2014, both presidents jointly inaugurated the Center for Indian Studies at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. Vietnam has been a large recipient of scholarships and training slots numbering over 200 annually, including under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Program.

Our cultural outreach to Vietnam would receive a major boost with the opening of the Indian Cultural Center in Hanoi later this year. We look forward to conducting classes in Indian music and dance. We already hold regular classes in yoga that are immensely popular. We received overwhelming support from the Vietnamese authorities and the thousands of Vietnamese people who enthusiastically participated in the International Day of Yoga celebrations in June in the major cities and numerous provinces of Vietnam. We have received overwhelming response to the cultural programs organized by us including Festivals of India, Classical Dance Recitals, Food Festivals, Folk Dances, and Indian Film Festivals.