Focus

n i - ietnam
Consolidating Bilateral Ties  
The recent visit of Nguyen PhuTrong, Secretary General of theVi etnam
Communist Party to India, demonstrates thegrowing convergence in
strategic interests between India andVietnamthat will growin breadth
and depth in thecomi ng decades, maintai ns Carlyle  AThayer 
The General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Social ist Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trang
meeting the Prime Mini ster. Or Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on November 20, 2013
T
he Secretary General of the Vietnam
Communist Party. guyen Phu
Trong, made a state visit to India
Irorn November 19-22 at the invitation
of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Secretary General Trong holds no post in
Vietnam's government and is not a member
of Cabinet. The fact that India accorded him
the honour of an official visit is a refle ction
of the close political ties between India and
Vietnam and India's acknowledgment of
Trongs role in Vi tnams one-party state.
Sustained Growth in Bilateral Tic.
Although political ties between India
and Vietnam and their national leaders
dates back to the years after India gained
independence, the two countries formally
extended diplomatic recognition only in
1972. Adecade later. a major milestone
was reached when the two sides established
the India-Vietnam Joint Committee
for Economic, Cultural. cientific and
Technological Cooperation to provide
oversight of their bilateral relation• .
Another milestone occurred in
November 2007 during the course of a visit
to India by Prime Minister Nguy n Tan
Dung, when India and Vietnam adopted
a thirty-three point Joint Declaration on
Strategic Partnership. At that time. Vietnam
had established strategic partnerships with
only two other nations - Russia in 200 I and
Japan in 2006.
TIle India-Vietnam strategic partnership
is based on fi ve pillars: political. defence
and security cooperation: economic and
commercial engagement and cl iser trad
and inv -stment: science and technology
cooperation: cultural and technical
cooperation: and cooperation at multilateral
and regional forums.
The first pillar of cooperation - political.
defence and security - is undoubt .dly the
mainstay of the strategic partnership. It
embraces six important areas: an annual
trategic Dialogue at deputy minister level;
defence supplies. j oint project . training
and intelligence exchanges: exchange
visits by defence and security 01icials:
capacity building. technical assistance and
information sharing related to ecurity
of sea lanes, anti-piracy, prev ntion of
pollution and search and rescue: anti-
terrorism and cyber security; and non-
traditional security issue: (drug traffi cking,
natural disa: tel' relief. climate change.
energy security. HIV/AlDs. avian influenza
and other epidemics).
A month after the Declaration on
Strategic Partnership, Defense Minister
\ KAnthony travelled to IIanni to sign
a I lemorandum of Cooperation with his
counterpart. General Phung Quang Thanh.
EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY DIP LOMATIST . January 2014

The MoU provided for cooperation in
national defence, navy, air defence and
military training.
Since 2007, India and Vietnam have
regularly exchanged high-l evel visits
including heads of governme nt, defence
minis ters and service chiefs. In December
20II , for example, Vietnam' s President
Truong Tan Sang made a state visit to
India. President Sang requested defence
assistance in four areas : training for
submariners; pilot conversion training for
the Su-30; modernisation of Nha Trang
port; and the acquisition of medium-sized
naval warships. .
New High in t he Strategic and
Economic Partnership
TIle year 20 13 turned out to be a pivotal
one. In .Iuly, India offered Vietnam a $ 100
million Line of Credit for the purchase of
four patrol boats. Observers noted that this
was the first time India had made this offer
to a country outside of South Asia.
ecretary General Trongs visit marks
a new high point in bilateral relations. He
was accompanied by six Cabinet members.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told
his guests, " We regard Vietnam as a trusted
and pri vileged strategic partner and an
important pillar of our ' Look East' policy."
Aller holding formal discussions, the two
leaders witnessed the signing of eight
maj or documents related to priorit y areas
under the strategic partnership.
ccording to the Joint Statement
issued on November 21, the two leaders
"agreed that defence cooperation was
a significant pillar of the strategic
partnership" and the two sides should
work out suitable terms and conditions
for Vietnam to usc the Line of Credit "i n
the field of defence." India agreed to set
up an English and IT Training Centre at
the National Defence Academy in Hanoi.
Also. an agreement on the Protection of
Classified Information was signed.
Most notably. the second pillar of
the strategic partnership - economic
and commercial engagement and closer
trade and investment - was elevated
in importance. According to the Joint
Statement, "the leaders agreed that
enhancing the economic partnership
was one of the main components of the
strategic partne rship."
India is among Vietnam's top ten
trading partners with two-way trade
reaching S3.94 bill ion in 2012. The two
leaders set the target of boosting this to $7
billion by 2015 and $15 billion by 2020.
A new Joint Sub-Committee on Trade was
established to attain these goals. Indian
investment in Vietnam is more modest.
In June 2013, lndia funded 74 projects in
Vietnam with a total registered capital of
S252.2 million.
Two major economic documents were
signed during Secretary General Trong's
visit. The first was an Mol,l between the
Viet Nam Oil and Gas Group and ONGC
Videsh Limited (OVL) under which
Vietnam offered OVL five  offshore oil
and gas explorations areas in the South
China Sea (Blocks 10&II -I, 17,41,43,
and 102& J06/ 10) and its Kossor block in
Uzbekistan. OVL will assess each block
wi th the option of taking any. all or none of
the blocks. lf OVL proceeds, a producti on
sharing contract will be signed.
The second agreement was an MoU
between the Vietnam's Ministry of Industry
and Trade and Tara Power Ltd on the
development of the 1,320 MW Long Phu
2 Thcnn al Power Project in Soc Trang
province. Valued at S1.8 billion, this would
be Indi a's biggest investment in Vietnam
and, according to Vietnam' s Foreign
Minister Pham Binh Minh, would take
Indi a from  forti eth to twelfth largest foreign
investo r in Vietnam.
f ive other major cooperat ion documents
were signed at this time indicating that the
other pillars of thc strategic partnership
were not being neglected. These included:
an MoU between two Ministries of
finance; an Air Service Agreement; an
MoU on the establishment of the Indira
Gandhi Hi-tech Crime Lab in Hanoi; a
cooperation agreement between Hanoi
National University and the Indian Council
for Scientific and Industrial Research.and
an Mol.I on cooperation between the India
Institute of Management in Bangalore and
the Ho Chi Minh Nat ional Academy of
Public Admin istration in Hanoi.
Secretary General Trongs Nove mbe r
visit to Indi a demonstrates the growi ng
convergence in strategic interests
between Indi a and Vietnam that will
grow in breadth and depth in the coming
decades. The "China factor" is a key
moti vati on for both sides to cooperate
in regional and other mul tinat ional
forums and to strengthen cooperation
in the defence and secur ity. India and

The India-Vietnam J 
strategic partnership is
based on five pillars:
political, defence and
security cooperation;
economic and commercial
engagement and closer
I I 
trade and investment;
science and technology
cooperation; cultural and
technical cooperation; and
cooperation at multilateral
and regional forums
tli 
Vietnam are natural partners given their
til
familiarit y with Sov iet/Russian military

equipm ent, technology and platforms. In
1j
future .defence ties will deepen and there is

likely to be growi ng cooperation between
th
nati onal defence industries.

China's rise and assertiveness pose
fa
similar but not congruent challenges for
both India and Vietnam. Vietnam has
th
emerged as an import ant strategic actor
d,
in Southeast Asia. India is emerging as
a!
an increasingly important strategic player
J.
in East Asia. Both India and Vietnam
at
seek to engage with China politically and

cr 
economically,while seeking to maintain
their autonomy in a multi-polar world.
£J
Secretary General Tr ongs visit also

highli ghts the growing salience of economic

relations including trade and investment.
..

As the MoU with Tata Power indicates,
in
India is likely to become more involved
t\!
in developing Vietnam's energy sector
ts
' I 
on a sustained basis. India has long been
P
involved in developing Vietnam's oil and
EI 
gas sector and this commitment is set to
cc

expand in the future. But India will not be
ai
drawn into developing oil and gas blocks in
er
areas contested by China.

Pf 
.( 
si.';
Carlyl e , 1 Thayer  IS Emeruus    The  l:"i ""r.' ity ofNew Soutt:  IT!  
""lies til tlu: Australian  Defe nce  Fore Academy  lind DII'Ccwr ofTlusyer  
CO I1.I Ull UII C.I'.  which provides  political  anulvsis  and  research supp ort 011  
current regional secu rity  1.\'SUC"i ,  
rh'i 
EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY DI PLOMATI ST . January 2014 

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