Your Excellency, Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue, President, National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Members of the Parliamentary delegation accompanying him,
Excellencies, dignitaries, colleagues and dear friends,
It is a great pleasure for me to join you all on this important occasion. Five years ago, I had the honour of accompanying Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit to Vietnam when it was agreed that we would establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We have come some distance since then and have good reason to be satisfied with the state of progress. Yet, this is both an occasion to take stock as well as to look forward into the future.
2. We also stand close to another milestone; next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of India-Vietnam diplomatic relations. The mutual trust and sincere bonds of friendship that have developed over this half century has matured into a partnership that we see today. And it is truly a wide ranging one, that encompasses political engagement, trade & investment ties, energy cooperation, development partnership, defence and security cooperation, and people-to-people relations.
3. What has been heartening to note is that neither side has ever stopped working to take ties to a higher level. On the contrary, this is a relationship that is continually work in progress. A year ago, our Prime Ministers, both of them, raised the bar by putting forward a ‘Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People’ at their Virtual Summit. It focuses on greater cooperation driven by the promise of new technologies, by innovation, and by digitization to deliver good governance, people’s empowerment, and sustainable and inclusive development. And we do this even while addressing ongoing opportunities and challenges, whether it is on defence and security, trade expansion or climate action.
4. As political and security partners, India and Vietnam have converging interests in a multi-polar and rebalancing world. We have been supportive of each other’s objectives, whether in ASEAN-led forums or on global platforms. Our cooperation in the UN Security Council this year has been exemplary. Our shared respect for international law, including UNCLOS 1982, and a rules-based order is a strong commonality. It is this larger vision of how we wish to see the world evolve that really brings us together. We are both societies that are fiercely independent and deeply committed to maintaining our freedom of choices. These traits make us the foundation of a multi-polar Asia in the coming years.
5. On the economic front, our trade has been robust even in the midst of global uncertainties. It crossed the US$ 10 billion mark in 2020, and is likely to exceed US$ 12 billion this year. To realize its full potential, however, we should work towards promoting reliable, efficient and resilient supply chain systems. And fashion a complementarity between India’s vision of self-reliance and Vietnam’s growing economic vitality. We hope that the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement that is under review will help expand our trade targets.
6. Our development partnership is another noteworthy aspect of our ties. India has shared its experience in the fields of IT, science & technology, defence, agriculture, and space. We have contributed to both institution building and human resource development in Vietnam. Under the Mekong Ganga Cooperation framework, India has been implementing Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) in Vietnam, numbering 37 in 33 provinces to date. These projects are not only bringing benefits to the local community, but also helping Vietnam in reaching its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
7. The close friendship between India and Vietnam is underpinned by its two millennia old historical and cultural linkages. The Archaeological Survey of India has been a particularly effective vehicle to rediscover these roots. Many of you would recall the recent finding of a 9th century monolithic Shiva Linga by ASI experts at the My Son Temple complex. As the virtual summit decided, in December last year, we intend to expand our activities now to cover another block of the Cham Temple at My Son, the Dong Duong monastery at Quang Nam and the Nhan Cham Tower at Phu Yen.
8. India’s Act East Policy has been the guiding principle of our engagements with ASEAN partners and Vietnam is no exception. The success of this policy has led us to adopt a larger Indo-Pacific approach that captures India’s growing strategic interests more effectively. From the Indian perspective, Vietnam is a key partner both in the ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific context. We already have a substantial agenda underway whether it is in commerce, connectivity or culture. Our political and defence cooperation has also been steadily growing. These can be further buttressed by interaction between the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative that has been proposed by India.
9. Ladies and Gentlemen, the visit of the high-level Vietnamese delegation today, led by His Excellency The President, only underscores how much we can do with greater ambition and higher commitment. The contacts between our parliamentary leadership is a source of support for the executive as it aims higher. In your presence, Mr. President, three MOUs have been signed on Parliamentary cooperation, Information & Technology and Marine sciences. Two letters of intent have also been concluded in the domain of posts and digital media. 12 business MOUs have been signed between our enterprises. All these point to the upward trajectory of our ties.
10. The last five years of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership have been very productive. The next decade must be even more so. At a time of global uncertainty and post-Covid economic recovery, the India-Vietnam partnership will be a significant stabilizing factor in the Indo-Pacific. Keeping our national ambitions and global responsibilities in mind, we must forge ahead. It is most appropriate that this important anniversary is marked by the presence of such a high-level delegation from Vietnam. The message that this sends of our friendship will surely resonate.