India’s “Act East” policy will bring India, Vietnam and ASEAN together
“All heads of ASEAN states and governments are coming to India on the occasion of Republic Day to celebrate 25th anniversary of ASEAN and India dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level partnership and 5 years of strategic partnership. This is a good occasion for both India and ASEAN to get together and also to show the importance of India in ASEAN and the rest of the world. Trade and investment volumes between India and Vietnam have increased significantly in the first eleven months of the year 2017,” said Vietnamese Ambassador to India, H.E Ton SinhThanh in an exclusive interview with Uday India correspondent Ravi Mishra. Excerpts:
How are you seeing the relationship between both Vietnam and India?
India and Vietnam have long history of interactions. It is found that many merchants from Odisha and other parts of India travelled and settled in central part of Vietnam. They established Hindu kingdom there. Owing to that, we see many Hindu relics in the central parts of Vietnam. Buddhism also expanded to South East Asia including Vietnam.
During the freedom struggle and national liberation, Vietnamese and Indian people both supported each other. The first relation between freedom fighters like Ho Chi Minh and Jawaharlal Nehru took place even before independence of both countries. Throughout the struggle against French colonialism and American imperialism then the cause of reunification and reconstruction, Vietnam got lot of supports from India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also visited Vietnam in the year of 2016.The year 2017, both Vietnam and India celebrated 45 years of diplomatic relations. Eventually, I can say, relationship between both India and Vietnam is like “as clear as sky without cloud”.
India has a very good strategic partnership with Vietnam. Can you briefly elaborate on this issue?
We have the comprehensive strategic partnership with India. Cooperation between Vietnam and India is in all sectors. There are five pillars of this partnership, like political and diplomatic, economic and trade, science and technology, culture and education and most important security and defence. I strongly believe that the relations between our two countries will develop even further, based on strong convergence of strategic interests and mutual trust.
How is security and defence partnership with India most important for Vietnam?
Security and defence is most effective area of our strategic partnership. This is improving our security forces. India is helping Vietnam in capacity building. It is providing weapons and other defence equipment to Vietnam. It also trains Vietnamese officers of the navy, the air force and the infantry. We send a lot of officers to study here in India, and the knowledge they get is vital for Vietnam. This strategic partnership between both countries is not against any third country.
Is china a challenge for Vietnam and other countries in the region?
China is our biggest neighbour and we have good relation with China. Not only China, we have good relation with all countries. Hence, Vietnam has never taken China as a challenge. We have many common problems like terrorism, climate change and piracy. These problems could only be tackled if all countries in the region come together.
If nothing is wrong, what would you like to say on China’s claim on South China Sea?
Yes, there are disputes on territorial islands and exclusive economic zones in South China Sea. Vietnam firmly believes in the settling of the dispute by peaceful means, including diplomatic and legal processes. In recent years, South China Sea has become most contentious. Vietnam always opposed the nine-dash line because it violated the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It violated the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Vietnam and other countries in the region. Even 50 per cent India’s trade pass through South China Sea. Therefore, India can play a very important role in this region. We strongly support freedom of navigation. We are negotiating with all countries to avoid any kind of conflict.
All leaders of 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) states/governments are coming to India on the occasion of Republic Day, 2018, isn’t it a new tallness between India and ASEAN countries?
This year all heads of ASEAN states and governments are coming to India on the occasion of Republic Day to celebrate 25th anniversary of ASEAN and India dialogue partnership, 15 years of summit-level partnership and 5 years of strategic partnership. This is good occasion for both India and ASEAN to get together and also to show the importance of India in ASEAN and the rest of the world. This participation is a big event ever in the history of both India and ASEAN relation.
“Look East” policy now has turned into “Act East” policy by the present Indian Government. What would you say on this policy?
When Prime Minister Narendra came to power, he showed his determination and decisiveness in the policy towards East and South East Asia, by turning the “Look East” policy into “Act East” policy. Viet Nam supports India’s Act East Policy, consider it a suitable policy shift in line with India’s expanding role in the region.
I think India can act faster and have more engagements and presence in this region. There is also a lot of scope for India to expand its trade and investments in Southeast Asia. In this way, India can play greater role in maintaining peace, security, stability, cooperation and development in Southeast and East Asia.
What are the major trade and investment from India in Vietnam?
Priority areas for economic cooperation between Vietnam and India, include power generation, infrastructure, tourism, textiles, footwear, medical and pharmaceuticals, information & communications technology, electronics, agriculture, chemicals, coal, steel, machinery and support industries.
India now is among top 10 trading partners of Vietnam. In the first eleven months of this year, bilateral trade was growing much faster than the world trade, reaching more than $ US 6,68 billion, increase near 41.5 per cent in comparison with the same period last year, which gives prospect of reaching more than $ US 7 billion for the whole year.
In terms of investment, Indian companies are investing more in gas, energy and textile. The total number of new investments, capital increases. and share purchases by Indian investors to Vietnam in the first eleven months of 2017 reached $ 184.01 million. India ranked 17th out of 112 countries and territories invest in Vietnam since the beginning of the year.
Until now, accumulation of the investment of India into Vietnam is in168 projects, with a total capital of 756.29 million USD, ranked 27th out of 126 countries and territories investing in Vietnam. I believe that the increase in investment volume will accelerate the trading between the two country.
Recently, China deliberately tried to change status quo in Dokalam plateau near the trijunction of India, Bhutan and China. Due to this, there was border standoff between both countries. What is the position of Vietnam in this concern?
If you try to solve these problems vigorously, it will create conflict. Therefore, matters like this should be resolved peacefully.
By Ravi Mishra