Amid China’s aggressive posturing in the Asiatic region, India and Vietnam discussed “concrete and feasible” steps to protect their interests while seeking to bolster their strategic bilateral ties. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Vietnam Pham Binh Minh, who concluded his four-day visit to India today, told PTI in an interview that the two sides also discussed the progress of implementation of the high-level agreements between them for creating a stable and facilitating framework to help their relations grow more “substantively”. The Vietnamese leader’s visit comes in the midst of growing maritime aggression of China in the South China Sea as also its military stand off with India in the Sikkim sector. Vietnam and several other countries, including Brunei and the Philippines, are involved in territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, seen as a potentially explosive diplomatic issue in east Asia.
China has also been objecting to India’s oil exploration projects in maritime areas offered by Vietnam in the South China Sea, claiming that it enjoys indisputable sovereignty there. However, India has been dismissive of Chinese objections, insisting its cooperation with Vietnam was as per international laws and that it would like the cooperation to grow. Talking about the economic ties between the two countries, the Vietnamese leader said many of India’s major corporations are investing in various projects in Vietnam such as the Tatas in Long Phu II thermal power plant in Soc Trang and ONGC Videsh in oil and gas exploration on Vietnam’s continental shelf.” During his visit, apart from participating in the India- ASEAN ministerial meet on July 4, he held bilateral meetings with Indian leadership, including President Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
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After the meeting with Swaraj, the MEA issued a statement saying both sides reiterated their support for peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. The reiteration of their stand came as the two sides noted the order issued by the Arbitral Tribunal, constituted under the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), on the dispute between China and the Philippines which said Beijing did not have sovereign ownership over several disputed islands in the South China Sea. China had rejected the order.
Noting that many issues pertinent to bilateral relations were discussed during his talks here, the Vietnamese leader said they exhanged views on “concrete and feasible measures appropriate to the situation of each country as well as the international and regional state of affairs in order to substantively and effectively implement the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership established in 2016”. In the interview, the Vietnamese deputy prime minister also talked about cooperation in the areas of trade, defence and security.
“The establishment of the Strategic Partnership in 2007, which was upgraded to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in September 2016, has created an important framework for our bilateral cooperation to expand and deepen in all areas: politics and diplomacy, defense and security, economy and trade, science and technology, and education and training, among many others,” he said. Economically, India is among Vietnam’s top ten trade partners, with a bilateral trade turnover of USD 7 billion, he said, adding by the end of May 2017, India’s total registered FDI in Vietnam stood at USD 772 million, with 145 investment projects.