Speech of Ambassador P. Harish at the conference on “Vietnam-India: 45 years of Diplomatic Relations and 10 years of Strategic Partnership”
Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics
Hanoi, 21-22 March 2017
H.E. Ms Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, Vice President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Prof. Dr. Nguyen Xuan Thang, President of Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics,
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Van Toan, Director, Centre for Indian Studies,
Ambassador N. Ravi, former Ambassador of India to Vietnam,
Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhaya, former Ambassador of India to Myanmar,
Scholars from India representing the ICWA, IDSA, India Foundation and Vivekananda International Foundation,
Others scholars from India and Vietnam,
Members of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Xin Chao, Namaste!
It gives me great pleasure to participate in today’s conference organized by the Centre for Indian Studies of the Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics to commemorate the 45th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam. 2017 is indeed a year of milestones – it also marks 10 years of our Strategic Partnership that has been upgraded to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during Prime Minister Modi’s Official Visit to Vietnam last year, and the 25th anniversary of the India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership.
As young nations with a young demographic, an aspirational society and with the determination to pull ourselves out of poverty into higher economic and developmental orbits, with a desire to contribute to peace and prosperity in our regions and the world, we have much in common. Yet, 45 years is a small period in a civilizational relationship.
The Vietnamese coast held great importance for Indian traders and along with traders came Buddhist monks. Buddhism came directly from India to Vietnam through the maritime route over 2000 years ago. Along with trade and Buddhism, there was a healthy exchange of ideas, technology, architecture, and cultural practices that one can see to this day. The Champa civilization in central and southern Vietnam encapsulated the influences of Hinduism and later on imbibed Buddhist influences alongside. With Hinduism and Buddhism becoming mainstream religions and bringing about social, cultural and economic stability in Vietnam, worship of Buddha and the Hindu gods such as Shiva, Vishnu and Parvati also took into its fold local matrilineal and mother goddess traditions of worship.
The exquisite architectural complex at My Son sanctuary which is today a UNESCO World Heritage site, and ancient archaeological remains scattered in the coastal areas of Vietnam from Danang to Binh Thuan including the Po Nagar temple in Nha Trang and the Po Klong Garai temple in Phan Rang stand testimony to our civilizational inheritance.
Indeed, as Prime Minister Modi remarked during his visit last year, many people came to Vietnam during the course of history and many of them came with a message of war and violence. India came with the message of Buddha and of peace. Those who came to Vietnam with the message of war have no place in the hearts of the Vietnamese people but India, that has come with the message of Buddha, continues to maintain a treasured place in their hearts.
What brought our founding fathers together was their desire for freedom and their strong sense of patriotism. Our freedom struggles led by Mahatma Gandhi and President Ho Chi Minh drew sustenance from the will of our people and cooperation with friends. Uncle Ho wrote as far back as 1921 in the La Revue Communiste about the revolutionary freedom movement in India and took inspiration. Prime Minister Nehru and President Rajendra Prasad were one of the first international visitors to Vietnam after its independence and President Ho Chi Minh likewise visited India soon after. This exchange of high level visits has remained a standard feature of our friendship and conduct of diplomatic relations ever since.
India’s commitment to Vietnam has continued during the period of national reunification and today’s period of national reconstruction. Indeed, as late Prime Minister Pham Van Dong said the relations between India and Vietnam are as clear as the blue sky without any cloud.
The period of economic reforms that began with Doi Moi in Vietnam in the late 80s and the 1991 economic reforms in India brought forth new opportunities for expanding our relationship. 20 years ago, our trade was US$135 million. Today, it is over US$8 billion, a 60-fold growth. Indian investments from India and routed through third countries such as Singapore and Thailand are around US$1.2 billion in a range of sectors covering oil & gas, automobiles, mining and minerals, pharmaceuticals, agricultural implements, machinery, textiles etc. Indian companies are also active in numerous service sectors including information technology, education, project consultancy and engineering designing. As some major infrastructure projects such as the US$2.2 billion 1320MW Long Phu-II thermal power project of Tata Power in Soc Trang province come to fruition, Indian investments in Vietnam will rise multifold.
A number of Indian companies are actively exploring new opportunities in Vietnam in renewable energy and energy conservation, leveraging their expertise and scale in India’s domestic market gained due to Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious programme of installation of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 of which 100 GW would be in solar and 60 GW in wind energy.
Our friendship and trust and a congruence in our strategic world view has led to a deepening of our defence and security cooperation in the last 15 years. This is the 10th anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between the two countries which was upgraded to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership last year. Our Joint Vision Statement articulated by our Defence Ministers in 2015 sets out the modalities for promoting our strategic partnership by defending international law and principles, enhancing the protection of free flow of commerce via land, air and sea links, and addressing non-traditional security threats. High level visits of both of our Defence Ministers that took place last year have cemented our mutual understanding, service to service cooperation, naval ship visits to each other’s ports, extensive training and capacity building, defence equipment procurement and related transfer of technology and cooperation at regional fora such as ADMM+.
It is heartening that an Indian company will be building the offshore high speed patrol boats for Vietnam Border Guards utilizing the US$100 million Line of Credit extended in 2014 and both sides will work to operationalize Prime Minister Modi’s announcement of a US$500 million Line of Credit for defence industry cooperation and a US$5 million grant for construction of an Army Software Park at the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang.
Both countries are keen to strengthen linkages between our security agencies and an MOU signed during the Prime Minister’s visit between our National Security Council Secretariat and Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam will focus on traditional and non-traditional security matters, cyber security, counter-terrorism and trans-national crimes.
Last year, during the visit of Chairperson of the Vietnamese National Assembly to India, both sides signed the International Framework Agreement on Cooperation on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy which will set a new foundation to take forward our three decades old cooperation in civil nuclear energy. We also signed an Intergovernmental Framework Agreement for Cooperation in the Exploration of Outer Space that will facilitate cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment of Vietnam.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Human resource development and capacity building has been a staple of our development partnership with Vietnam for decades. Every year, we provide over 150 Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme scholarships and over 25 scholarships under the ICCR General Scholarships and the Mekong Ganga Scholarship Scheme. We have also helped establish eminent research institutions such as the Cuu Long Rice Research Institute in the Mekong Delta, the Buffalo and Forage Research Centre in Song Be province, the Centre for Excellence in Software Development and Training in Ho Chi Minh City, and the Vietnam-India Centre of English Language and IT Training in Nha Trang.
Our cultural cooperation is vibrant as ever. Indian films and especially television serials are very popular in Vietnam. Yoga is almost a national practice and the celebrations for the International Day of Yoga last year attracted thousands of practitioners across Vietnam. The Indian Cultural Centre opened late last year and will be formally inaugurated next month. We have a trained Yoga instructor, and classical Indian dance and music classes are also ongoing at the Indian Cultural Centre. Our Youth Exchanges are ongoing and we are determined to continue with exchanges and cooperation between our friendship associations. We have, last month, begun the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Conservation and Restoration of Cham monuments at My Son, Quang Nam province by the Archaeological Survey of India and their experts are currently in My Son.
Our congruent world view has led to strong cooperation at regional and international fora especially at the UN, NAM, WTO, ASEAN and related foras including the ARF, ADMM+, EAS and ASEM. Our leaderships have placed the new context and vision of the bilateral relationship in the framework of India’s ‘Look East’ and ‘Act East’ approaches, and that of ASEAN, which is important to us in terms of history, geography and the economic and strategic space that we share. Vietnam is the ASEAN Coordinator for India for the period 2015-18 and both our countries are committed to strengthening our partnership within the India-ASEAN and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation frameworks. Our Prime Minister has announced a US$1 billion Line of Credit for India-ASEAN physical and digital connectivity and we encourage our ASEAN partners to utilize this.
During the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Vietnam in September 2016, both sides reiterated their desire and determination to work together to maintain peace, stability, growth and prosperity in Asia and beyond. Noting the Award issued on 12 July 2016 of the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), both sides reiterated their support for peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UNCLOS. Both sides also called on all states to resolve disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability, respect the diplomatic and legal processes, fully observe the Declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and soon finalize the Code of Conduct (COC). They also recognised that the sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development. Vietnam and India, as State Parties to the UNCLOS, urged all parties to show utmost respect for the UNCLOS, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.
I have been in Vietnam for slightly less than a year and I can say that this has been one of the most exciting professional and personal journeys for me. This is a great time to represent India in Vietnam and plan to lay the foundation for the next 45 years. I am confident that our future as nations in our regions and in the comity of nations is bright and our bilateral relationship will continue to prosper and flourish.
Viet Nam Muon Nam