“Vietnam – India Development Cooperation on Economics”
Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, 11 May 2015
Ms. PREETI SARAN
Ambassador Extraordinar and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to Vietnam
Your Excellency Prof. Ta Ngoc Tan, President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics,
Your Excellency Mr. Do Thang Hai, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade,
Your Excellency Assoc.Prof.,PhD Le Van Toan, Director of the Centre for Indian Studies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be present here today at the Conference on “India and the country of Ho Chi Minh”, organized by the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics . I feel deeply honored to address this gathering of eminent scholars and experts in various fields from India and Vietnam, who are participating in this international conference. I am certain that today’s discussions will meaningfully contribute to understanding the imperatives of further promoting India-Vietnam bilateral relations.
This would not have been possible without the tremendous support provided by Prof. Ta Ngoc Tan, President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. On behalf of my colleagues and my own behalf, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to you Excellency, for your efforts and leadership, both in setting up the Centre for Indian Studies at your prestigious Academy and for organizing today’s Conference. You were instrumental in getting our Presidents to jointly inaugurate the Centre last September and I am certain, under your guidance and the stewardship of its founding Director Dr. Le Van Toan, this Centre will become a vibrant centre for exploring new ideas in bringing our countries closer together.
India and Vietnam share historical and civilisational linkages dating back centuries. Buddhism, followed by Hindiusm, have made significant contributions in our cultural interaction. In modern times, the friendship between our leaders, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh, formed a solid foundation for our relations. We supported each other during our fight against colonialism and our struggle for independence. Today, they reflect the deep sense of friendship and affection that the people of both countries have for each other.
Ever since we elevated our relationship to a Strategic Partnership in 2007, our relationship has grown substantially. Our comprehensive cooperation covers different areas of cooperation including politics, defence, trade and investment, education, science and technology, culture and people to people contacts. Vietnam is our foremost partner in India’s Act East Policy. We believe that a strong India-Vietnam partnership is in the best interests of the people of both countries and also for peace, prosperity and stability in the region.
I look forward to hearing your views during the course of the conference on what is it that we can do to better tap the immense potential for cooperation. As you begin your discussions today, I would like to highlight some important pointers that mark our relationship today:
- We have excellent political relations and we share common strategic concerns. We have supported each other in international forums and voiced our common concerns on important issues of interest to us.
- Within months of our General Elections and the establishment of a new Government in India last year, our External Affairs Minister visited Vietnam in August, and our President in September, to indicate the importance we attach to our friendship with Vietnam. Vietnamese Prime Minister visited India in October 2014. Such interactions, at the highest level, between countries are indeed rare and symbolize the excellent political relations that mark our friendship.
- Other high level exchanges in recent months include the meeting between our EAM and President Sang in Jakarta last month, visit of our Speaker of our Parliament for the IPU, and the visit to India by Politburo member and Chairman Fatherland Front in March. We now look forward to the visit of the Defence Minister of Vietnam to India later this month.
- Our bilateral trade, which is $ 8 billion today, and ahead of trade targets, has grown 20 times in the last 10 years. After China, USA, Japan, Korea and some ASEAN and EU countries, India is one of the top 10 trading partners of Vietnam. This is expected to grow beyond our revised targets of $ 15 billion by 2020. By encouraging more Indian investments in power generation, infrastructure and oil & gas exploration in the pipeline, we can also become one of the top 10 investors in Vietnam ($ 2.2 billion).
- When our Prime Ministers met in October last year, they agreed and decided that enhancing economic cooperation between our two countries should become our strategic priority. We have identified garments and textiles, tourism, pharmaceuticals, IT, energy and agriculture as the foremost areas of cooperation. While there is political will to move forward, the biggest challenge before us is to persuade our business community, on both sides, to look at the potential advantages in doing business with each other.
- This requires creating better awareness about the importance of our political, economic and strategic relations. The HCM Academy and the India Studies Centre and Conferences like today’s event can play a very important role in understanding the potential and creating awareness.
- We need to ask ourselves a few questions. In spite of such excellent political relations, why has our economic cooperation remained below potential? For example, in Vietnam’s booming $26 billion garments industry, for which it sources raw material from other countries, only $600 million comes from India, even though India is one of the cheapest and most competitive producers of cotton, yarn, fabric and fibre in the world. Similarly in pharmaceuticals, India produces the cheapest and the best generic drugs in the world, for which it imports active pharmaceutical ingredients from other countries, including China, when we could easily import these from Vietnam. There are obvious complementarities, in this sector which we have not explored. India’s strengths in the Pharmaceutical sector, also extends to medicines required in animal husbandry and in agri-chemicals and we could do better. Presently our share in Vietnam’s market, in this area is only 5%, but we can surely reverse these trends. Tourism is yet another sector where I see immense potential, because Indians are the second largest travelers and spenders in the world and travel to many neighbourhood destinations like Bangkok and Siam Reap. You can easily attract Indian tourists to Vietnam.
- What is the single biggest impediment that has prevented greater trade, investment, tourism and people to people contact between our two countries? Absence of direct flights between India and Vietnam as the single biggest reason. The Jetairways flights from HCMC to Mumbai and New Delhi, via Bangkok, is a good beginning, and we look forward to Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet started direct flights from Hanoi. Combined with a more liberal visa regime and better marketing, including through use of Bollywood films to market the exotic locations in Vietnam, I am convinced we can make a dramatic difference in enhancing our economic cooperation.
- Both India and Vietnam are blessed with the youngest populations in the world. They are the engine of growth for our countries and the best ambassadors of our future relations. While Indians in my generation grew up inspired by stories of your heroic struggle, it is the new generation of youth both in India and Vietnam that needs to be educated about the potential of our friendship. Once again, it this Academy, that trains future leaders of Vietnam, who can play a very important role in making this possible.
I am certain the distinguished panel of speakers has other innovative ideas and I look forward to hearing your views on how to forge closer economic linkages and greater people to people contact between our two countires. Once again, I would like to thank the Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics for taking this excellent initiative in organizing this conference.