Indo-Vietnam Relations

Introduction:

  • India and Vietnam held delegation-level talks at Hyderabad House in Delhi. While the Indian delegation was led by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, his Vietnamese counterpart Dang Ngoc headed the Vietnam team. Dang was on a three-day visit to India.
  • During the visit, Vietnamese budget airline Vietjet announced the operation of five new routes connecting India and Vietnam. New Delhi-Da Nang route will commence operations with a frequency of five flights per week. New routes connecting Mumbai with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will operate with three weekly flights and four weekly flights.
  • Currently, the airline operates flights from and to New Delhi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi at a frequency of four flights per week and three flights per week respectively. Vietnam is also seeking to boost its farm produce exports to India to alleviate the impact of coronavirus on the Southeast Asian country’s trade with China, its largest trading partner

Significance of the Relationship:

  • India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehruwas one of the first visitors to Vietnam after its victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
  • Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy, and key interlocutor in ASEAN.
  • Over the years, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides.
  • India’s thrust under the ‘Act East’ policy combined with Vietnam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends.
  • India and Vietnam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides UN and WTO.
  • Both India and Vietnam possess the capacity to find compatibility in areas promoting defence cooperation and infrastructure simultaneously.
  • Vietnam, which is under maritime pressure from China’s activities in the South China Sea (SCS), wants India to deepen its military engagement further.

Vietnam is important for India’s look east policy:

  • Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy, and key interlocutor in ASEAN.
  • Over the years, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides.
  • India’s thrust under the ‘Act East’ policy combined with Vietnam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends.
  • India and Vietnam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides UN and WTO.
  • Both India and Vietnam possess the capacity to find compatibility in areas promoting defence cooperation and infrastructure simultaneously
  • Vietnam, which is under maritime pressure from China’s activities in the South China Sea (SCS), wants India to deepen its military engagement further.
  • The India-Vietnam Joint Statement of March 2018 reiterates the focus given to sub-regionalism.
  • India’s proposal to improve humanitarian and disaster relief and maritime transportation links found the eager backing of Vietnam, which also supported India’s proposed anti-terrorism measures.
  • Mutual trust, threats emerging from a rising China and a convergence of strategic interests have contributed to the deepening of ties between the two nations to an extent that Vietnam now engages India at the level of a ‘comprehensive strategic partner’,  which is a clear indication of importance both the nations put in this critical partnership.
  • Vietnam ratified the CPTPP, asserting its growing economic impact globally, with exports increasing to approximately $240 billion for the year 2018.

Bilateral Relations:

  • Cultural and economic links between India and Vietnam date back to 2nd century.
  • India and Vietnam have robust trade and economic relations with bilateral trade of USD 12.8 billion in 2017-18.
  • Trade and economic linkages continue to grow.
  • Defence Cooperation has emerged as a significant pillar of India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam.
  • Military exchanges between India and Vietnam are quite robust. The two sides conducted their first-ever bilateral land warfare and naval exercises in early 2018.
  • Indian ships regularly make friendly port calls to Vietnam.
  • For the first time, a Vietnamese ship participated in the International Fleet Review at Vishakhapatnam, in February 2016.
  • The Indian Business Chamber (INCHAM) is an organisation of Indians living in Vietnam, primarily to promote trade and business interactions.
  • The Indian Cultural Centrewas opened in Hanoi in September 2016, with the objective of strengthening India’s cultural presence in Vietnam.

Common Concerns between the two nations:

  • An area of potential convergence for both Vietnam and India is health care.
    • Vietnam has highlighted the importance of linking economic growth to universal health care, whereby 80% population would be covered by health insurance.
    • India too, since 2011, has been focussing on the need to deliver accessible and affordable health insurance to weaker sections of society.
    • A potential area of convergence in the realm of health care through joint public-private partnership agreements can be explored by the two countries.
  • Today there is increasing security concernsin the areas of maritime security and adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • Amid a rapid build-up of Chinese military presence and massive reclamation of submerged features in Southeast Asia, both Vietnam and India are concerned about the balance of power in nautical Asia.
  • Vietnam opposed the “Quad” or quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Japan and Australia.
  • The proposed sale of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has taken a back seat as there has been no response from Hanoi.
  • The $ 500 mn line of credit offered in 2016 has yet to be operationalised for facilitating deeper defence cooperation.

Conclusion:

  • Time bound delivery of specific projectsbetween India and ASEAN countries should be looked at.
  • Relation roles in the fields of political, economic, strategic field including defence and security which are in the upward trajectory.
  • It can be expected that political relations get improved in the coming 5 yearswhen the diplomatic relations complete 50 years between the two nations.
  • But India needs to improve economic ties with Vietnamto achieve the set target up to 2020. Scholars have now been saying that BIMSTEC which has two South East Asian countries namely, Myanmar and Thailand should consider to expand itself to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
  • Then it will be a very powerful body and lasting link between India and ASEAN.
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