In the afternoon, 29 May 2015, Ms. Preeti Saran, the Ambassador of the Republic of India to Vietnam received the invitation of Prof. PhD. Ta Ngoc Tan, member of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Central Executive Committee, the President of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics to visit Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics. Ms. Preeti Saran had a speech entitled "Vietnam - India relationship: Reality and Prospect" at the symposium to the Sixth Training Course of Potetial High Senior at Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics.
Assoc. Prof. PhD. Le Van Toan, Director of the Centre for Indian Studies and the Centre’s leaders attended the symposium. After the speech, the Ambassador had a dialogue with participants of the course on issues of reality and prospect of Vietnam - India relationship. The Ambassador and the participants agreed that Vietnam - India relationship is growing as a historical necessity, which meets the aspiration of residents and governments of the two countries, favorable for the prosperity of the two countries, conducive to peace, stability and development of the region and the world.
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SPEECH OF AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIRARY OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA TO VIETNAM AT THE SIXTH TRAINING COURSE OF POTENTIAL HIGH SENIORS, HO CHI MINH NATIONAL ACADEMY OF POLITICS
Centre for Indian Studies, 29 May 2015
I am deeply honoured to be present here today to address such a distinguished gathering of senior leaders, decision makers and representatives of the Communist Party of Vietnam. I would like to thank H. E. Prof, Dr. Ta Ngoc Tan, President of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and his colleagues for kindly inviting me today. Following his very successful visit to India last year, when Dr Tan signed several important agreements for cooperation with leading Indian Institutions, he has guided the establishment of the Centre for India Studies in the Academy. This Centre was jointly inaugurated by the Presidents of India and Vietnam in September 2014. I had the distinguished pleasure to attend the formal launch of the Centre’s website on 11 May 2015. I am certain that under the dynamic leadership of its founding Director Assoc. Prof Le Van Toan, the Centre will become an important think-tank on India, and contribute to creating a better understanding of the importance of India-Vietnam relations. It will, I am certain, help to bring India and Vietnam even closer.
Vietnam and India share a unique friendship, marked by mutual affection, affinity, trust, admiration and support for each other. Interaction between our civilizations dates back to ancient times with the spread of Buddhism from India. The traditionally close and cordial relations have their historical roots in the common struggle for liberation from foreign rule and the national struggle for independence. In modern times, our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh laid a solid foundation with their personal friendship that has been sustained by subsequent generation of leadership on both sides.
In India, we have great admiration for Vietnam, for the unconquerable spirit of the Vietnamese people, for their determination to succeed against all odds and their tenacity and fortitude against even the most powerful adversaries. Today, the same attributes and national character are driving your economic growth and development. These have resulted in increased prosperity and better living standards of your people. This progress is testimony to the inspirational leadership of Vietnam and the perseverance of its people.
India too has come a long way from the days after our Independence, when large sections of our population were below the poverty line and for decades, our growth remained sluggish. Today, we are one of the fastest growing economies in the world, growing at 7-8%. We are also one of the youngest nations in the world, with 50% of our 1.2 billion people who are below 25 years of age. They will be the engine of growth, not just for India but for an aging population in other parts of the world. What makes us different from other major powers is the fact that we do not threaten anyone with our growth. Non-violence and peaceful coexistence is in our DNA. Perhaps it is because of the influence of Buddhism.
Today, as India and Vietnam emerge as two of the fastest growing economies in the world, the potential of our joint efforts to enhance our bilateral trade and investment, our collaboration in science and technology, our cooperation in human resource development and, of course, our cultural exchanges, is infinite.
We also have a convergence of views on regional and international issues. We have supported each other in international fora and reiterated our desire and determination to work together, to maintain peace, stability, growth and prosperity in Asia. We agree that freedom of navigation in the East Sea should not be impeded and believe that all parties concerned must exercise restraint, avoid threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS and DOC. We are convinced that together we can promote peace, stability and security in this region and the world. As two developing countries, with a stake in the future, we can and should take advantage of our many synergies.
Last year was a landmark year in our bilateral relations. Within the first three months of the establishment of a new Government in India, our Foreign Minister visited Vietnam in August, followed by the state visit of our President in September and then Prime Minister of Vietnam visited India in October 2014. Such interactions, at the highest level are indeed rare. It symbolizes the deep bonds of friendship that exist between our two countries and the importance we attach to our relationship. There is complete political unanimity in India about enhancing our strategic partnership with Vietnam and Vietnam is a key pillar in India’s Act East Policy.
We have established institutional mechanisms that regularly review the progress in our bilateral relations. The Joint Commission, co-chaired at the level of our Foreign Ministers, meets on a regular basis for this purpose. The last Joint Commission meeting was held in New Delhi on 11 July 2013 and the next one will take place in Vietnam in October this year. On May 25th i.e. Monday this week, we successfully concluded the 7th Foreign Office Consultations and 4rd Strategic Dialogue, co-chaired by our Vice Foreign Ministers. The 9th Annual Security Dialogue at Vice Minister Level was held in Delhi in January 2015. The 2nd Sub-Committee met in Hanoi, also in January 2015. Other mechanisms include the Joint Committee on Science and Technology, and a Joint Working Group on Educational Exchange.
Defence Cooperation is one the strongest pillars of our strategic partnership with Vietnam. Last year, our Chief of Armed Forces and two Indian ships visited Vietnam. After the 9th Annual Security Dialogue, our National Security Advisor visited Vietnam in April this year. This week, Defence Minister H.E. Mr Phung Quang Thanh completed a very successful visit to India. He met our Prime Minister, our Defence Minister and our National Security Advisor and signed a Vision Document outlining our cooperation for the next 5 years. We also agreed to enhance cooperation between our two Coast Guards. We expect one Coast Guard and two Indian Navy Ships to visit Vietnam this year. The main focus of our defence cooperation will be on capacity building of the Vietnamese Armed Forces.
When our Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi met Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, they agreed that economic cooperation should become our strategic priority. Our bilateral trade has grown at 16% annually, to $9 billion, ahead of our trade targets and we have revised our targets upwards, to $15 billion in 2020. Indian investments in Vietnam have also grown to $ 1 billion, mostly in oil and gas explorations, in agro processing, mining and other sectors. If an enabling environment and support is provided to Indian companies, we can become one of the top 10 investors in Vietnam. The timely and successful implementation of the $ 1.8 billion thermal power project in Soc Trang by Tata Power, will encourage more Indian investments to come into Vietnam. Again, what makes Indian investments different from other investors is the fact that wherever we go, we create jobs locally and contribute to the economy of the host country.
At a time when Vietnam is looking to diversify its trade and investment partners, India can become an important market for Vietnamese agricultural products, tourism and garments. India can also become an important source for raw materials for Vietnam’s booming garments industry. We have identified priority sectors for trade and investments. These include tourism, textiles, information technology, agriculture, agro-processing, machine tools and pharmaceuticals.
Indians are one of the largest spenders and travelers in the world. Around 15 million Indian tourists travel world wide and this is expected to become 50 million by 2020. They spend around $ 13.3 billion today and by 2030, it is expected that they will contribute $ 90 billion in international tourism. There is immense potential for boosting bilateral tourism traffic. Many Vietnamese like to visit India, particularly Bodh Gaya, and other Buddhist sites. There are beautiful tourist places in Vietnam which Indians could visit, especially the Hindu monuments of the ancient Cham civilization. Regrettably, unlike Thailand and Cambodia that attracts over 2 million Indians every year, only 54,000 visit Vietnam. Lack of information and absence of direct flights prevents more tourism and business between our two countries. During Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to India, it was announced that Vietjet and Vietnam airlines will start direct flights this year. We hope this decision of our leaders is implemented sooner rather than later.
The Indian film industry and cinema can play a very important role in marketing Vietnam, not just to an Indian audience but internationally because of its popularity. Telecasting Indian films and cultural content on Vietnamese television and vice versa, shooting Indian films in Vietnam and holding film-related mega-events should be seriously explored as a marketing strategy. It will help reach out to a world wide audience who are fans of Indian cinema.
Today, India is one of the cheapest and most competitive producers of natural and manmade fibers, yarns, textiles and fabrics, while Vietnam is one of the largest exporters of garments. There are obvious complementarities in this area. Pharmaceuticals are another area where we can work very closely. India is today the cheapest manufacturer of quality generic drugs for which we import active pharmaceutical ingredients from several countries, including China. We can easily source this from Vietnam and increase our sale of generic drugs to Vietnam. Agro-chemicals and fertilizers carry the same potential. The information technology sector is yet another area where India’s growth story is well known. The success of Silicon Valley is attributed to Indian engineers and scientists whose reputation is world renowned. Last year we had launched our Mission to Mars which cost us $ 74 million. Compare this to the fact that it costs much more, $ 100 million to make the Hollywood film Galaxy. Frugal innovation, that characterized our Mars Mission, is also the story of other products developed and produced in India and we would be happy to cooperate with Vietnam. You have all perhaps heard that we produce the cheapest car in the world. The small car Tata Nano cost just US$ 2500, and mo-peds in India are sold for $ 100. Our life-saving drugs sell at one-tenth the international price and our surgeons and doctors perform the most high-end and sophisticated medical operations, once again at one-tenth the cost elsewhere in the world. India is therefore becoming an important destination for medical tourism.
Renowned Indian technical and scientific institutions, which train these engineers and scientists, have also trained Vietnamese students under our ITEC and other scholarship programmes. In fact, Vietnam is one the largest recipients of the Indian scholarships programmes, outside our immediate neighborhood.
Since 1976, India has extended 16 Lines of Credit totalling US$ 145 million to Vietnam. During our President’s visit last year, a US$ 100 million LoC agreement was signed in September 2014 for the first time in the defence sector and a successful implementation can lead to many other similar credit lines. We have both acquired defence equipment from Russia and former Soviet Union. Today we have improvised on these defence machinery and are best placed to assist our close friend and strategic partner, Vietnam. India has also offered to discuss a line of credit of US$300 million in the textiles sector. We agreed to consider earmarking an amount of up to USD 100 million under the Buyer's Credit of the National Export Insurance Account (BC-NEIA) for use by Vietnam.
We have also identified greater collaboration in science and technology. We have helped establish several Centres of excellence, including the Advanced Resource Centre in Information and Communications Technology (ARC-ICT) in September 2011. The Centre trains students and Government officials in various areas such as web designing, network systems, java, GIS applications and e-governance. In November 2013, India gifted a 16-node cluster Super computer to the Hanoi University of Science and Technology and I am informed it is being used fruitfully. We are also in discussions to enhance cooperation in civil nuclear technology.
Today if we have to replicate the close bonds of friendship that characterized our relationship by our founding fathers, then it is important to focus on greater cultural and people to people contacts, especially among the youth of our two countries. They hold the key to our future. We have signed an MOU with the Ho Chi Minh Youth Communist League and hope that it will become an important partner in creating greater awareness among our youth to tap the future potential of our relationship.
Cultural contacts are equally important. In 2012 we organized a year long cultural celebrations as the Year of Friendship to mark the 5th Anniversary of India – Vietnam Strategic Partnership and 40 year of Establishment of Diplomatic Relations. Last year we had a series of successful cultural exchanges to celebrate a cultural festival including a Buddhist Festival.
On 21st June we will be celebrating the 1st International Day of Yoga in partnership with the Government of Vietnam. The International Day of Yoga was approved by the United Nations in December last year when India proposed this resolution. Out of 193 countries, 177 co-sponsored it creating a record in the United Nations. Vietnam was the first country to cosponsor the resolution with India. Celebrations will be held countrywide in Vietnam, including in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Can Tho and other provinces. I take this opportunity to cordially invite you to come with your families and friends on 21 June at 7.30 AM at Quan Ngua Stadium, Hanoi. I look forward to your support and the support of the Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics for making this event a resounding success.
Thank you for listening to me and providing me this opportunity to share my thoughts.