India-Vietnam relations have been exceptionally friendly and cordial since their foundations were laid by founding fathers of the two countries – President Ho Chi Minh and President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Nehru. The traditionally close and cordial relations have their historical roots in the common struggle for liberation from foreign rule and the national struggle for independence.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the first visitors to Vietnam after its victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. President Ho Chi Minh went to India in February 1958. President Rajendra Prasad visited Vietnam in 1959. In recent times, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides. Trade and economic linkages continue to grow. India’s thrust under the ‘Look East’ policy combined with Vietnam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends. Vietnam is an important regional partner in South East Asia.
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.
- 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 Centre was opened in Hanoi in September 2016, with the objective of strengthening India’s cultural presence in Vietnam.
Significance of the Relationship
- India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was 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 has backed India’s permanent membership in UN Security Council.
- India has been consistently supporting the Freedom of Navigation, unimpeded flow of commerce and it is supporting Vietnamese and some positions of some other nations in relation to South China Sea. India is adhering to international laws and UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
- Vietnam supports India’s Act East Policy and it believes that India can do a lot of balancing in South Asia as far as other powers are concerned. India is expected by Vietnam and other South East Asian countries to play a stronger role in the region – on the strategic (Indo Pacific issue) and on the economic side. India’s Assistance to Vietnam
- The Archaeological Survey of India is helping Vietnam in the preservation and conservation of some of the temples
- Since 1976, India has offered several Lines of Credit (LoCs) to Vietnam over the years on concessional terms and conditions.
- Vietnam has been a large recipient of training programmes under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
Focus on Sub-Regionalism
- As ASEAN continues to focus on its centrality in the region, there will be shifts in smaller members of ASEAN due to China’s rise.
- Vietnam is focussing on both sub-regionalism and regionalism as the core of its priorities.
- India too looks at both sub-regionalism and regionalism as priority avenues to pursue its foreign policy.
- The India-Vietnam Joint Statement of March 2018 reiterates the focus given to sub-regionalism
- Another area that is emerging is the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam growth triangle sub-regional cooperation.
- India and Vietnam can jointly explore the potential for enhancing capacity building and providing technical assistance and training within this sub-regional grouping.
- Bilateral economic ties and trade need to be improved more between India and ASEAN countries if strategic relations are to be improved. China has relatively better economic relations with South East Asian countries which is a cause of concern for India.
- Shared common security perceptions and strategic convergence in Indo-Pacific region propel both the countries to have good defence and security cooperation. Maritime security cooperation was talked in ASEAN India commemorative summit. Vietnam and India have been cooperating in many ways like in Milan exercises. Many other South East Asian countries are also participating in these exercises. India has been providing training to Vietnamese submarines
- 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 concerns in the areas of maritime security and adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- Energy sector is a crucial area where much can be done like deals of ONGC with Vietnamese companies. But, China has been raising concerns about this.
Time bound delivery of specific projects between 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 years when the diplomatic relations complete 50 years between the two nations. But India needs to improve economic ties with Vietnam to 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.