India and Vietnam on Saturday vowed to join hands for an open and thriving Indo-Pacific besides ensuring an efficient and rules-based regional security architecture, seen as a thinly veiled message to China over its increasing military posturing in the region.
After wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the two strategic partners inked three pacts providing for cooperation in nuclear energy, trade and agriculture. They decided to explore co-development projects in defence sector and boost ties in oil and gas exploration, including trilateral cooperation.
Modi said both sides expressed commitment to an open, efficient and rules-based regional architecture and to expand bilateral maritime cooperation further.
“We will jointly work for an open, independent and prosperous Indo Pacific region where sovereignty and international laws are respected and where differences are resolved through talks,” Modi said in a media statement in the presence of the Vietnamese President.
In an apparent reference to the South China Sea dispute, the Vietnamese president said it supports India’s multi-faceted “connectivity” with ASEAN and asserted that there must be freedom of navigation and over flight in the region. He said that disputes must be resolved through peaceful means.
Vietnam and several other ASEAN member countries have territorial disputes with China over the resource-rich South China Sea.
While India, the US and several other world powers have been pressing for resolution of the dispute on the basis of international law, China has been favouring a bilateral framework with respective countries.
Modi said India and Vietnam will also look for trilateral partnership in oil and gas sector.
Earlier on Friday, Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang had reached New Delhi along with wife Nguyen Thi Hien on a three-day visit to India. They arrived in the country at the invitation of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind.
On Saturday morning, Quang has issued a press statement along with PM Narendra Modi and exchanged agreements between both the countries.
"Vietnam has an important place in India's framework of Act East policy and India's relations with ASEAN," said PM Modi during his speech at the joint press statement.
"We have decided that we will enhance cooperation in defence production and explore opportunities in the transfer of technology. We will jointly work for an open, independent & prosperous Indo Pacific area where sovereignty and international law is respected."
"We agreed to strengthen our relations in different sectors like renewable energy, agriculture, textiles & Oil & gas. In Oil & gas sector, not only we will strengthen our long-standing bilateral relations but also work along with other nations on trilateral possibilities," Modi added.
"Warm welcome to the Vietnamese President, Tran Dai Quang and his wife Nguyen Thi Hien on a state visit to India!," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted earlier.
"Vietnam is an important pillar in India's #Act East Policy and the two countries share civilisational relationship spanning over 2000 years," Mr Kumar said.
Earlier in the day, the Vietnam Prez inspected the guard of honour at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Saturday. Quang was also accorded a ceremonial welcome in the presence of president Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
EAM Sushma Swaraj has met Tran Dai Quang and discussed several ways to strengthen India's comprehensive strategic partnership by expanding cooperation across all sectors.
Post that, Quang has reached Raj Ghat along with wife Nguyen Thi Hien and paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi.
PM Modi, who welcomed Quang on his first State visit to India at the Hyderabad held bilateral talks over 'Act East Policy.'
President Quang visited Bodh Gaya in Bihar, a Buddhist pilgrimage site, before reaching New Delhi on Friday.
Vietnam is an important partner in Southeast Asia and is currently the country coordinator for India with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc, a role that will be handed over to Thailand later this year.
Apart from ASEAN, India and Vietnam closely cooperate in other regional forums such as the East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides the UN and WTO.
India-Vietnam trade stood at $6.24 billion in fiscal 2016-17 and the two sides have agreed to raise this to $15 billion by 2020.
Defence has emerged as an important pillar of the bilateral relationship and Indian ships regularly make friendly port calls to Vietnam.
India is also an important development aid partner for Vietnam and has extended several lines of credit for capacity building in the southeast Asian nation.
Vietnam is also among the larger recipients of scholarships offered under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
(With inputs from PTI)