Shaping contours of India – Vietnam relations

Update: 06:58 | 30/08/2018
“Moving beyond the ideological linkages, both countries have endeavoured to revamp their relations under the realities of world politics and subject to global and regional responses of the Great Powers in the Asia-Pacific.”
shaping contours of india vietnam relations Indian Ocean Conference focus on building regional architecture
shaping contours of india vietnam relations Indian Ocean Conference to bolster strategic cooperation

That is the comment of Dr. Sonu Trivedi, Fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (New Delhi) cum Director (Honour) of Centre for Vietnam Studies, in an exclusive interview with The World and Vietnam Report.

What is Vietnam’s position in India’s Act East Policy?

Given the cultural-religious linkages between the countries of India and Vietnam, based on their closer association with the historical kingdoms and the impact of Buddhist philosophy to the anti-imperialist struggle under colonial rule and foreign intervention during the Second World War and thereafter, both the countries have developed closer ties sharing a common destiny. These have deepened the bond between the people of two countries. The year 2018 marks the 46th anniversary of the India-Vietnam diplomatic relations which began on 7th January 1972. Over the years, diplomatic ties between India and Vietnam have deepened, reinvigorating the age old partnership between the two countries.

The elevation of the ‘Strategic Partnership’ between the two countries to that of ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ is a clear indication of the goodwill, trust and importance the two countries place on their relationship. It is also an acknowledgment of the existing strong bilateral defense and security ties and our mutual desire to contribute to regional peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity. Moving beyond the ideological linkages, both countries have endeavoured to revamp their relations under the realities of world politics and subject to global and regional responses of the Great Powers in the Asia-Pacific.

Nonetheless, there are several other areas of mutual concern for India and Vietnam - cooperation in oil and gas sector, information technology, education training, science and technology, defense and security and not to forget, the trade and commercial ties. Besides, the already existing bilateral ties in the field of cultural, historical, non-traditional security issues and coordination in several regional and multi-lateral forums remain the core issue significantly shaping the emerging contours of India-Vietnam relations.

shaping contours of india vietnam relations
Dr. Sonu Trivedi. (Photo: Hai Yen)

What can Vietnam and India do to build regional architecture in the context of changing geo-politics in the Indo-Pacific region?

Given the internal synergies between India and Vietnam and external responses of the Great Powers, certain key strategies have been evolved for promoting the international position of India and Vietnam in the Indo-Pacific region. In the emerging security dynamic in the Indo-Pacific region both India and Vietnam must work towards forging a strong strategic partnership besides the usual bilateral defense and economic cooperation. The need for expanded partnerships or mini-laterals should be given serious consideration by India and Vietnam.

Improvement in the India-Japan ties in the recent past and Vietnam’s growing engagement with Japan creates opportunities for a potential trilateral agreement consisting of India-Vietnam-Japan for shaping the ‘power politics’ in the region.

In the background of growing strategic convergences between India-US relations and Vietnam’s robust relationship with the United States in recent times and the geo-political realities in the Asia-Pacific calls for trilateral engagements between India-Vietnam-United States.

For exploring the opportunities for greater collaboration between the United States, Japan and Vietnam, possibilities for a trilateral cooperation between the three countries have also been making rounds in various security establishments in the United States.

Given the evolving comprehensive strategic ties between Vietnam and Australia and the already existing Comprehensive Partnership with India, to expand the relations further in a mutually beneficial way, prospects of Vietnam-Australia-India trilateral cooperation may be potentially explored.

Amidst the changing dynamics of Asian geo-politics, quadrilateral partnership among India-Japan-Australia-United States is also evolving. Strategic thinkers have argued that these trilateral partnerships are not alliances, but they constitute frameworks of cooperation for enhancing domestic capacities in the realm of economy and defense preparedness. This emerging partnership and prospects for ‘mini-laterals’ must be explored as a key strategy to engage with all the Member States of ASEAN – and Vietnam playing a leading role in it.

shaping contours of india vietnam relations
Dr. Sonu Trivedi was answering the queries of The World and Vietnam's reporter. (Photo: Hai Yen)

What is your comment on trust building measures in the South China Sea conflict?

There is no unique model to the dispute management in the South China Sea region. All the stakeholders have to agree and respect the legal framework developed for the resolution of the South China Sea. One of the significant achievements in the trust building exercise is the progress in the Code of Conduct (COC) between China and ASEAN countries. Conduct of the China-United States ‘Diplomatic and Security Dialogue’ has also been commendable. Besides, a series of consensus on conflict prevention and dispute management measures are required.

China and other disputant powers should exercise self restraint and avoid unilateral exploration and exploitation of natural resources in disputed areas. They must establish a bilateral mechanism for settlement of the dispute and discuss out the irritants through inter-governmental consultation process.

What is your opinion on the prospect of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China?

Single draft of the COC will help in attaining the long deferred goal of peace and tranquillity in the region. The completion of the COC process would be win-win situation for all stakeholders. All disputant parties must act responsibly and in accordance with the international rules-based order.

How do you evaluate Vietnam’s role in coordinating the relations between ASEAN and India over the past three years?

Last 3 years have been particularly significant. Vietnam as the country coordinator of India-ASEAN relations has played an important role in forging deeper ties between the two. ASEAN and India have also celebrated 25 years of dialogue partnership in the year 2017. The bilateral cooperation has expanded in all sectors. Commerce, Culture and Connectivity have been the main focus of India-ASEAN relations over these years.

In order to forge deeper ties between ASEAN-India cultural links, two international Conferences were organised in 2015 and 2018. These Conferences have focussed on the enduring cultural influences and inter-cultural links between the two regions. Vietnam, the Country Coordinator of India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership has played an important role in organising these Conferences.

India-ASEAN cooperation has also expanded into new fields, especially the ‘Blue Economy’ and exploring the ocean resources.  In November 2017 and July 2018, Vietnam and India successfully co-organised India-ASEAN Workshop with numerous proposals to further cooperation in the field.

With the aim to accelerate existing connectivity prospects, India-ASEAN Connectivity Summit on the theme: Powering Digital and Physical Linkages for Asia in the 21st Century was held in December 2017 at New Delhi. The objective of this forum is to focus on the existing connectivity prospects and evolve suitable policy recommendations and strategies to enhance relations between India and ASEAN. 

Various capacity-building projects have been undertaken through the ASEAN-India funds such as ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, the ASEAN-India Green Fund and the ASEAN-India Science and Technology Development Fund. The 'Project Development Fund' and ‘Quick Impact Project’ will help the companies integrate into the regional value chain, particularly in textile and garment, pharmaceuticals, agro-processing and electronics.

Last three years has also witnessed the elevation of ‘Strategic Partnership’ in 2007 to a ‘Comprehensive Partnership’ in 2016 between India and Vietnam. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited India during the commemorative ASEAN-India Summit in New Delhi in January 2018. This was followed the State visit of the President of Vietnam H. E. Tran Dai Quang in March 2018. The two countries have built up synergies for a deeper cooperation between them. These have been envisaged in a multi-faceted and a multi-sectoral cooperation in political, economic, security, defense, science and technology, education, health, agriculture, tourism and building up a closer cultural contact between the people of the two countries. In recent years, cooperation in the field of capacity building, technical assistance, information sharing, naval cooperation and developing physical connectivity have been the key areas of concern.

Thank you so much, Dr. Trivedi!

The interview reflects the opinion of Dr. Sonu Trivedi and does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The World and Vietnam Report.

By Trinh Quang Chinh

Significant activities undertaken under the aegis of Centre for Vietnam Studies:

4th March 2018: Hosted the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam H. E. Tran Dai Quang for his Special Address at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library/Book Release/ and Announcement of the Centre for Vietnam Studies, New Delhi.

15th May 2018: Inauguration of the Centre of Vietnam Studies by Amb. Preeti Saran, Secretary (East), Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Govt. of India.

Special Address by His Excellancy Ton Sinh Thanh, Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

15th June 2018: India-Vietnam Youth Dialogue.

10th July 2018: India-Vietnam Film Show.

26-27 July 2018: International Conference on India-Vietnam: Strengthening Economic Ties.

9th August 2018: Young Scholars Conference.

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