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Transc​ript of President's onboard media interaction enroute to Delhi from Ho Chi Minh City

September 18, 2014

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

As you are aware, I was accompanied on this visit by MOS Petroleum & Natural Gas Shri Dharmendra Pradhan and a multi-party delegation of Members of Parliament comprising Professor KV Thomas, Shri PC Mohan, Smt Supriya Sadanand Sule, Shri Bhartruhari Mahtab, Shri Parvesh Sahib Singh and Dr 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. I was in particular honoured to gift on behalf of the people of India the sapling of a Bodhi tree. I visited the Tran Quoc Pagoda where a Bodhi tree planted by our first President Rajendra Prasad in 1959 is flourishing as a wonderful symbol of the strength and durability of our friendship with the people of Vietnam. I was further deeply moved by my visit to the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City which record and demonstrate the indomitable spirit and courage of the Vietnamese people who have emerged victorious against tremendous odds.

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 civilizational 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 Pt. Nehru and President Dr. 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 cooperation is robust and growing. We are helping them in training and capacity building. We are providing Line of Credit of 100 million USD 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 USD 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 itself, accompanied by a major business delegation.

To improve connectivity, Jet Airways will commence direct flights to Ho Chi Minh City from Mumbai from 5 November 2014 and Vietnam Airlines will fly to India in early 2015. This will open up the potential for greater flows of people-to-people contacts for businesses, for students and for tourists. I have also invited the Vietnamese leadership and the people of Vietnam to visit the land of Buddha and re-kindle this age-old connection. Further, we shall be commencing restoration work of the Cham Monument at My Son.

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. We were with them then, we are with them now and we will continue to stand strongly with Vietnam in the future. 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.

Question: You said in your statement that you were overwhelmed by the affection and friendship shown to you. Has anything changed in terms of your impressions before you arrived and during the three days that you were there? Did you get a new insight into Vietnam?

President: I cannot quantify it but the fact remains that I earlier visited Vietnam in 2011 as Finance Minister to join the Annual General Meeting of Asian Development Bank; but that time I did not have any detailed interaction with larger sections of the people. I called on Prime Minister, I called on the then President, I called on the Party General Secretary and the present Party General Secretary was at that point of time President of the National Assembly. What impressed me most when I went to War Remnant Museum,how the people suffered and today you have also seen Cu Chi tunnel. Just to remember that a small area of 150 square kilometers, densely forested; 4, 752 soldiers died against 50,000 of the USA with the most modern and sophisticated weapons. It speaks of the character and determination of the people. And perhaps that same determination and strength of character are helping them to guide their economic development; and despite the fact that the problems in international scenario, for two decades they have registered a steady growth of 7% in GDP. When they started, even in 1991, poverty ratio was 50% and today the poverty ratio has come down to 10%. Therefore employment generation, expansion of trade and steady GDP growth speak of the strength of their economy and its substantiality. It is based on their strength of character and determination.

Question: 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 other country through the prism of a third country. Therefore, I do not find any connection between my visit to Vietnam; and what I have stated is a statement of the fact. None of you, present here, can claim that you are not aware of the fact. 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.

Question: 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: One point is to be kept in mind, 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.

Question: Sir, in your statement you have said that you were quite overwhelm to see the ruins of 1966 picture where people of India were supporting the Vietnam's struggle and United States' forces. Do you think that, at present, a similar kind bond between the people of India and the people of Vietnam should be strengthened so this idea of Vietnam's development should also percolate down to India at the grass root level?

President: You know at the grass root level there was a strong support for the fight of Vietnam against the colonials. India people have supported fight against colonialism, whichever has taken in whichever part- whether it is Angola, South Africa, larger Africa or Latin American Countries; but with Vietnam it reached an emotional peak. As a result this poster was printed in Calcutta. It was circulated all over Bengal by the Marxist Communist Party. In Bengali it was written that after the liberation, we give red salute to Ho Chi Minh, red salute to Vietnam. In 1966 that was the outburst of the emotions which people had about that. But so far as our anti-colonial approach is concerned, India has always stood against the forces of oppression, forces of liberation in whichever part it has taken place. Thank you.

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