Vietnam, India tighten comprehensive strategic partnership

08:31 | 11/07/2017 Cooperation

(VEN) - Vietnam and India are celebrating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the strategic partnership this year. Vietnam Economic News’ My Phung talked with Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Parvathaneni Harish about achievements in multifaceted cooperation between the two countries.

vietnam india tighten comprehensive strategic partnership
Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Parvathaneni Harish

Could you highlight major milestones in bilateral relations between Vietnam and India during the last four decades?

India-Vietnam relations have been exceptionally friendly and cordial , the foundation of which was laid by the leaders of the two countries. The traditionally close relations have their historical roots in the common struggle for liberation from foreign rule and the national struggle for independence. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the first visitors to visit Vietnam in 1954 followed by President Rajendra Prasad in 1958. President Ho Chi Minh visited India on a state visit in 1958.

Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an official visit to Vietnam in September 2016, the first bilateral prime ministerial visit in 15 years. This historic visit has seen an upgrade in our strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Both Prime Ministers agreed to expand our close relations in all fields including defense and security cooperation and economic engagement, with the desire to contribute to regional peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity.

In the last one year, we have had numerous high level visits. From the Vietnamese side, these include: Defence Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich and Chairperson of the Vietnamese National Assembly Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan in December 2016; and Minister of Information and Communications Mr. Truong Minh Tuan in March 2017.

From our side, Minister of Defence Mr. Manohar Parrikar visited Vietnam in June last year, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. Dr. V.K. Singh was here in April this year, and our Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman visited Vietnam in May this year.

Besides this, regular meetings between the leadership of both countries have taken place on the sidelines of multilateral summits.

The close relationship between us is based on traditional friendship, long-standing partnership and mutual trust. Within ASEAN and our Act East Policy, Vietnam is a very important partner for India and also currently the Country Coordinator for India in ASEAN.

What should the two countries do to achieve the bilateral trade target of US$15 billion by 2020?

India is now among the top ten trading partners of Vietnam. Vietnam is among top four trading partners of India in ASEAN. Bilateral trade has seen continuous growth for last many years. Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Phuc agreed during the former’s visit that economic engagement was an important element of our comprehensive strategic partnership, and strengthening trade and investment is a strategic objective.

According to trade figures from India, from April 2016-March 2017, bilateral trade was about US$10.135 billion, an increase of around 30 percent over the previous year.

Major export commodities from India are machinery and equipment, seafood, pharmaceuticals, cotton of all kinds, automobiles, textiles and leather accessories, cattle feed ingredients, chemicals, plastic resins, chemical products, fibres of all kinds, steel of all kinds, fabrics of all kinds, ordinary metals and jewellery and precious stones.

Main items of imports from Vietnam are mobile phones and accessories, computers and electronics hardware, machinery and equipment, chemicals, rubber, ordinary metals, wood and wooden products, fibres of all kinds, pepper, means of transport, products of steel, coffee, footwear, chemical products and polymers and resins.

Five key sectors were identified as thrust areas, including garment and textiles, pharmaceuticals, agro-commodities, leather and footwear and engineering. We are looking at the potential in all areas and aspects to further promote bilateral trade. The exchange of trade delegations is frequent and a strong 40 member delegation from the Council of Leather Exports will be visiting Ho Chi Minh City from July 12-14.

Reaching the goal will require constant monitoring and enhancing interaction between our businesses and industry, which we continue to do.

What are the Vietnamese industries that have the potential to attract Indian investment in the coming years?

Indian investments in Vietnam are around US$1.34 billion but are expected to rise in the coming years. We are looking forward to early conclusion of the US$2.2 billion Tata Power’s 1,320 MW thermal power plant at Long Phu II in Soc Trang Province. This successful conclusion of this project will give a significant boost to Indian investments in Vietnam.

There are many potential sectors that Indian companies are looking at to invest in Vietnam. Renewable energy (solar energy, wind power) and energy efficiency projects are two important sectors. PM Modi has unveiled an ambitious plan for deployment of 175GW in renewable power capacity by 2022, including 100GW of solar and 60GW of wind power. Hence many Indian companies with experience and scale in these sectors are looking to invest in Vietnam, and have met with officials of many provinces in Vietnam to explore opportunities. We believe that both sides would benefit immensely from enhancing the share of renewable energy in power generation.

The oil and gas sector is also attractive. ONGC Videsh Ltd has been active in offshore oil exploration for around three decades and along with other Indian companies in the oil and gas sector is seeking to enhance investments in both upstream and downstream industries.

Besides these, Indian companies in the agro industry are also looking at investment opportunities in Vietnam. There are many Indian companies in Vietnam in the sugar, coffee and tea sectors. The pharmaceutical and IT industries from India are also keenly looking at investment opportunities in Vietnam. There are many investment opportunities in Vietnam and we have not reached our full potential.

We are also expecting many Vietnamese businesses, especially in agriculture and marine products, to learn more about our large, growing domestic market and benefit from the investment opportunities and enhanced ease of doing business in India.

People-to-people links, cultural exchange and tourism collaboration play an important role in strengthening bilateral ties. What is being done to further promote this cooperation?

People to people relations are the bedrock of any bilateral relationship. Our monks and traders have interacted over centuries and our 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 is assisting in the restoration and conservation of temples at the My Son World Heritage Site since February this year.

On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam and the 10th anniversary of our strategic partnership, and the 25th anniversary of the India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership, both countries are celebrating 2017 as the Year of Friendship. A Festival of India was held in Vietnam in 2014 in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City; and the first ever Indian Film Festival (IFF) was organized in three Vietnamese cities in 2015. The International Yoga Day has been celebrated over the last three years with the participation of thousands in many Vietnamese cities and provinces. This year, we celebrated the International Day of Yoga in Hanoi at the iconic Hoan Kiem Lake area with the participation of about 4,000 yoga enthusiasts. Yoga has emerged as a key cultural bond uniting our two peoples.

The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, in collaboration with the Vietnam-India Friendship Association (VIFA) and the Embassy of India, organized earlier this year a major four-day “Buddhist Festival - Days of India” in Tay Thien, Tam Dao District, Vinh Phuc Province. A Food Festival was organized in Hanoi in March this year and another is planned for August in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In April 2017, the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) was inaugurated in Hanoi by our Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. Gen. V. K. Singh. We launched the Year of Friendship by hosting a major cultural performance at the prestigious Hanoi Opera House and Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City and in Nguyen Hien Dinh Tuong Theater in Danang.

We hope that there will be more cutural troupes visiting Vietnam to celebrate the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence Day in August this year.

As for tourism, we hope that the number of tourists will increase with commencement of direct flights between India and Vietnam by VietJet later this year.

My Phung