Relations between India, Vietnam have been ‘cloudless’

President: I am happy to address you on the conclusion of my highly successful visit to Vietnam from September 14-17, 2014.

As you are aware, I was accompanied on this visit by Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and a multi-party delegation of Members of Parliament comprising K V Thomas, P C Mohan, Supriya Sadanand Sule, Bhartruhari Mahtab, Parvesh Sahib Singhand Ponnuswamy Venugopal belonging to different parts of our country.

We met with the entire top leadership of Vietnam, held extensive discussions, visited cultural and historical sites as well as interacted with the common people.

My delegation and I were overwhelmed by the affection, hospitality and warmth of the reception extended to us. We found across the board a deep-seated desire for closer interaction. We return to India impressed by the commitment of the Vietnamese government to take the relationship to new heights. The tangible outcomes of our discussions have been already conveyed to you. We concluded seven agreements/MoUs and released a joint communique, which will provide the institutional framework for mutually beneficial exchanges. I am convinced that my visit will provide fresh impetus and momentum to our close friendship and strategic partnership, which is based on civilisational contacts, modern-day solidarity and great potential for the future.

The foundation of our relations laid by the exchanges between the Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Rajendra Prasad has been consolidated by successive generations of leadership on both sides. Our strategic partnership, established in 2007, is marked by a high degree of trust. Today, our security and defence co-operation is robust and growing. We are helping them in training and capacity building. We are providing a line of credit of $100 million for purchase of some critical equipment.

Political relations between India and Vietnam have always been strong and “cloudless”. The time has come, however, for us to focus with renewed energy and fresh determination on strengthening economic engagement, connectivity and people-to-people exchanges, particularly amongst the youth.

Vietnam’s economic growth and development over the last two decades has been impressive. There is great scope to expand and diversify our trade exchanges. We have set a new target of $15 billion worth of trade by 2020. The Vietnamese side has promised that they will provide a favourable environment for further investments from India. We expect business partnerships and joint ventures to grow in the area of infrastructure, agro-processing, textiles, agro-chemicals, manufacturing, hydrocarbons, energy and many others. I am happy to inform that in follow up to my visit, the Prime Minister of Vietnam has agreed to visit India in October, accompanied by a major business delegation.

I have been moved by my experience of the last few days in this great country. Yesterday, at the War Remnants Museum, I saw a poster of 1966 proclaiming the support of the Indian people for the Vietnamese people in their struggle for freedom. India has always stood by and supported the people of Vietnam.

Vietnam has in India a dependable and trustworthy partner. The people of India, irrespective of differences in political conviction or affiliation remain strong votaries of friendship with Vietnam. I am confident that our relations will grow from strength to strength and our strategic partnership will be deepened and expanded rapidly in the coming years. I am certain that India and Vietnam, as two of the fastest growing economies of Asia, will provide stability and growth to this region and the world.

Mr President, in your interaction with the Indian community yesterday, you spoke about how the Indian economy is growing and how the interactions of the new government are paving the way for more investments. In that context you mentioned about your meeting with the Chinese president tomorrow. So what are your thoughts just before meeting the Chinese president as you wind up your Vietnam visit?

President: These are two totally independent issues; and one is not connected to the other. First of all, we shall have to remember that our external relation with each country is independent of our relation with other country. In other words, India’s foreign policy has never looked at another country through the prism of a third country. Therefore, I do not find any connection between my visit to Vietnam. The Indian economy was growing fast after 2007-08 and it started going down from 2008-09; GDP has come down substantially in last couple of years- these are all facts known to you and I have repeated it. What I have added is that the new government, after assuming office, has chartered a scheme, through which there are possibilities of having a larger direct foreign investment, GDP growth may increase and inflation has been sustained.

Sir, regarding the Letter of Intent that OVL and Petro-Vietnam have signed, the Chinese foreign ministry has yesterday already expressed their concern over this saying that if the blocks offered to India following the contentious region of South China Sea, China has problems with that. So, do you see anything regarding the Chinese president is also coming today?

President: OVL is exploring and exploiting in South China Sea from 1988 and this is just a commercial action. There should not be any political angularity to be looked at it. We have not made any comment about the contentious issue (sovereignty over South China Sea) because disputes are there amongst various maritime countries sharing territory with South China Sea. We have always held the idea that these issues are to be resolved peacefully as per international law, norms and practices. All disputes are to be settled through dialogue in a peaceful mechanism. There is no scope of use of force or threat of use of force.

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