India-Viet Nam trade relations on surge
It was only in September 2018 that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Viet Nam. This has been followed by the visit of President Ram Nath Kovind to Viet Nam from November 18-20, 2018. The Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in January 2018 and only a few weeks later President Quang came on a visit to India. It seldom happens that four senior-most heads of two countries visit each other within a year. But Viet Nam is an exception, feels Vietnamese newly appointed Ambassador to India Pham Sanh Chau and sees it signifying the strong emerging relations between India and Viet Nam.
During his recent visit to Viet Nam, President Ram Nath Kovind and his counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong agreed to further strengthen bilateral strategic co-operation in defense and oil and gas sectors. The two leaders reiterated the importance of building a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region on the basis of respect for national sovereignty and international law. The Indian President also stressed on enhanced cooperation between the two countries in the areas of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, textiles and IT adding that agriculture has been a key sector of cooperation where India is privileged to support the Vietnamese agricultural revolution through the establishment of Cuu Long Rice Research Institute.
It is to be recalled that only recently a high-level delegation headed by the Minister of Agriculture in Viet Nam had met a delegation from Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) to discuss ways and means to enhance bilateral trade in the field of agricultural produce. Mr. Kovind during his trip to Viet Nam reiterated the need to develop agricultural trade further stating that over 45 per cent of India-Viet Nam bilateral trade between the two countries.
Agro-processing, agro-chemicals, farm machinery, bio-technology and high-tech farming hold immense potential for bilateral co-operation, the President said and added that Indian industry can learn from Vietnam’s success in crops such as coffee, pepper, cashew, fruits and vegetables.
The President also said that the Indian pharmaceuticals industry, the third largest in terms of volume and the world’s largest provider of generic drugs, can partner Vietnam in providing quality health-care, medicines and medical devices for the public health system at an affordable cost.
Viet Nam is a key to India’s ‘Act East’ policy. The relations between the two countries in the Indo-Pacific which includes the South China Sea assume strategic importance amidst China’s increasing assertiveness in the area. On other hand, India and Viet Nam share a vision of a rules-based order and seek peaceful resolution of disputes in the region, the President said.
It is to be recalled that China claims almost all of the South China Sea. Viet Nam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims over the South China Sea. “Our shared vision seeks peaceful resolution of disputes, with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with principles of international law, including those reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the President opined.
Earlier, speaking on President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Viet Nam, Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau had said that the relationship between the two countries was of trust and mutual regard. This relationship is not just strategic but is based on common interests, he had said, reiterating further that the visit of Indian President will further cement this relationship.
Mentioning the years of turmoil that Viet Nam has gone through, Pham Sanh Chau had said that Viet Nam “has been the battleground of superpowers. We do not want to become battleground between various powers once again. It is not our policy to align with any country against any country. We are not prepared to an alliance with any country to fight any other country. Having faced a long-drawn deceptive war in the past, our people won’t allow that to happen.”
As regards to purchase of Brahmos and other military equipment from India, the Ambassador had mentioned that while he would be happy if India supplied Viet Nam’s defense requirements, but “the final decision will be with Vietnamese companies as Viet Nam adopts a model of market economy with socialist orientation.”
Pham Sanh Chau was all praise for the joint exercises that have recently taken place between India and Viet Nam and stressed that Viet Nam’s preparedness was necessary for maintenance of peace, security, freedom of navigation and freedom of over-flight in South China city.
Economic cooperation between India and Viet Nam has grown remarkably in recent years and there is still great potential to develop it further particularly when RCEP comes into play which will allow the two countries to further develop cooperation. RCEP however has been pushed to 2019 in the recent ASEAN summit taking place.
Oil and gas too were important to Viet Nam and the country is ready to welcome all cooperation in this regard with capable Indian companies, he added. He however stressed that there were bottlenecks in export of 5 Vietnamese fruits to India and he will use his stay in New Delhi to expedite procedures for India to open market for 5 fruits and simultaneously for facilitating export of some Indian fruits to Viet Nam.
On his immediate priorities, he said his first priority was to get a direct flight commenced from India. The timing of flight that was being offered by Indian authorities were not suitable to commence a flight, he said, when asked to elaborate on why there was still no direct flight despite such deep relations that the two countries enjoy.
Talking on the change in leadership in Viet Nam, he said the impact of the change in leadership has been huge and very positive. “It will be a great boost towards strengthening the relationship between India and Viet Nam when President of India gets a welcome by the new leadership of Viet Nam.
“We continue to give great importance and respect to our friends from India; the foundations of this relationship were laid by Mahatma Gandhi and our President Ho Chinh Minh.
Mentioning the great friendship between India and Viet Nam, the Ambassador welcomed Indian companies to invest in Vietnam. He said Indian movies were greatly popular in Viet Nam and presently an Indian soap ‘Balika Bahu’ is running on Vietnamese TV and is very popular.