Vietnam important for India’s Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative: Senior diplomat

Vietnam is an important partner in India’s ‘Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative’ which is based on shared values and interests in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region, a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Tuesday. The comments by Secretary (East) in the MEA Riva Ganguly Das came at a time India is attempting to further strengthen maritime security ties with key member countries of the 10-nation ASEAN in the wake of China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Today, our comprehensive strategic partnership spans a wide-range of collaboration – from political engagement to economic and development partnership, defence and security cooperation, energy cooperation, cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts,” Das said at a virtual meeting of India-Vietnam Business Forum.

“Vietnam is a key pillar of our ‘Act East Policy’ and an important partner in India’s ‘Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative’, which is based on our shared values and interests in promoting peace, stability and prosperity of our region,” she said.

The Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative (IPOI) is an India-backed framework aimed at making meaningful efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific region.

At East Asia Summit in Bangkok last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed setting up of the IPOI to conserve and sustainably use the maritime domain and to make meaningful efforts to create a safe and secure maritime domain.

The concept is gaining traction with Japan already agreeing to be the lead partner in the connectivity pillar of the IPOI.

Vietnam, an important country of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), has territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea region. India has oil exploration projects in the Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea and China has been objecting to it.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counter claims.

In her address, Das said India and Vietnam have historically shared warm and friendly relations based on mutual trust, goodwill and strategic convergence on several global and regional issues.

As of June, she said India has about 278 projects in Vietnam with total invested capital of USD 887 million, according to Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Agency.

India’s investments in Vietnam are in the sectors of energy, mineral exploration, agro-processing, sugar, tea, coffee manufacturing, agrochemicals, IT and auto-components.

Vietnamese investments in India is to the tune of USD 28.55 million primarily in areas of pharmaceuticals, IT, chemicals and construction materials.

“Our bilateral trade turnover is still not commensurate with the levels of our economic development. And therefore, we need to do more to broaden and intensify our trade relations to achieve its full potential,” Das said.

She also mentioned about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a “self-reliant India” in shaping the country’s response to COVID-19.

“We believe that given its size, capacities and ambitions, India has to be a major factor in the post-pandemic global revival. India has indeed played the role of the pharmacy to the world,” she said.

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