Developing Synergies between India and Vietnam: A Sectoral Analysis
Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma*
India and Vietnam both have strengths to draw upon for playing an increasingly important role inSoutheast Asia. Based on shared historical understanding, pre-colonial and cultural linkages, the relationship has developed into a strategic partnership based on increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues. The emphasis placed by the new Government in India on strengthening ties with Vietnam and Southeast Asia have created new opportunities to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation under the comprehensive strategic partnership adopted in September 2016 during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Vietnam.
Sectoral cooperation between countries helps to elevate existing partnerships and takes it to a qualitatively different level. It promotes economic growth and facilitates development of new and innovative technologies and products to address shared challenges. For India and Vietnam, cooperation in different sectors have highlighted the possibility of convergences not only in the fields such as defence, trade and economy but also in other fields like science and technology, education and training as well as culture and tourism which helps to consolidate the gains of the past and shape the future development paradigm. Though government-to-government contacts have been quite frequent and beneficial for the development of India-Vietnam ties, the need for greater people-to-people contact cannot be overemphasised. Cultural contacts and developing prospects of tourism, in this case, have been regarded as beneficial for the expansion of people-to-people contacts. Moreover, economic growth between countries cannot progress without skills development. In this regard, development of cooperation between the two countries in S & T, education and training enhances the presence of a strong, skilled force as well as paves the way for sustainable and balanced growth of bilateral relations. With this backdrop in mind, the paper sets out to trace the cooperation between the two countries on these aspects and seeks to explore and extend the scope of convergences in these fields.
Vietnam is one of the resource-rich countries in an economically dynamic Southeast Asia. Since the introduction of the Doi Moi reforms in Vietnam in 1986, the country has been focussing on economic integration and opening up its markets to the world’s developed economies. Vietnam was able to reach and sustain very high growth rate of around 7% for the period 1990-2012. However, due to the global economic slowdown, Vietnam’s growth rate has been reduced to roughly 6 per cent, being relatively high in comparison with regional average level. Despite substantial economic growth since the introduction of reforms, Vietnam lacks skilled labour and infrastructure to meet the requirements of sustained high growth in the future. The “Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India for 2014” prepared by OECD stated that “sustaining economic development will require increasingly sophisticated labour skills to enable industry to shift towards higher productivity and technology intensive activities. Viet Nam urgently needs to improve schooling and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) if it is to rectify the mismatch between skills supply and demand. Viet Nam needs to foster an equitable, stable business environment and to ensure a level playing field for non-state and state-owned enterprises. Only then will it be able to fully harness the essential and growing economic contributions of its SMEs.” The OECD Report clearly highlights the need for structural reforms as a key to realising Vietnam’s long-term potential. This would not only help in accelerating a reform program to enable sustainable growth in Vietnam but also help to overcome the limits of future cooperation between India and Vietnam.
Resources, whether environmental, human or physical have been considered to be important economic assets that play a vital role in a country’s economic development. It is through them that the production of goods and services in the economic processes are realised. Out of them the physical capital constitutes manmade goods which enable the production process like machinery, buildings, computers and other goods needed for the production process to run smoothly. Our understanding of the role of natural resources in economic development has advanced considerably in recent years.
The strategic partnership established with Vietnam in 2007 sought to steer multifaceted cooperation, along with enhancing cooperation on existing resources and capacities. One of the components of the development of India-Vietnam strategic relationship had been the investment in, and the implementation of measures to maximise the potential for Science and Technology cooperation and for research and education between the two countries. For instance, Indian corporations have expanded the scale of investment in high-tech agriculture in Vietnam. India on the other hand can learn rice production techniques like the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) from Vietnam, which increases yields, while using less seeds, water and fertilizers. Such kind of a collaborative efforts empowers the bilateral interactions and boosts the regional capacity to address common concerns.
Cooperation in Science and Technology: A brief overview
Globalisation and the increasing interconnectedness has given rise to a demand for sharing technologies. This is because technology development plays a key role in national competitiveness by giving a country competitive edge. In the 21st century, a growing technology demand from emerging economies has boosted the necessity of cross-border scientific cooperation and information exchange between individual researchers, institutions and governments. Cooperation in science and technology forms an important component in the gamut of bilateral relations of India and Vietnam. As a Southeast Asian economy, Vietnam is located in one of the most dynamic regions of the world. However, infrastructure deficiencies and lack of sophistication of innovation, production and less focus on R&D in Vietnam make it necessary to make a roadmap for mutual investment and cooperation in science and technology with emerging powers like India.
For India, extending cooperation to Vietnam in fields like science and technology gives an opportunity to deepen their exceptionally friendly and cordial relations with the country. India can avail advantages out of favourable demographics and good secondary education performance of Vietnam. Vietnam on the other hand can cooperate to take the best out of infrastructural expertise and developed innovation and information base of India. In fact, science and technology cooperation has been a recognisable feature of bilateral cooperation.
The foundation of cooperation on science and technology between India and Vietnam was laid by the Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation in Science and Technology signed between them in 1978. This agreement provided the base for the establishment of Joint Science and Technology Committee in 1997. This was followed by the signing of the India-Vietnam Protocol on Information Technology in 1999.
In the ICT sector, India has set up the India-Vietnam Advanced Resource Centre in ICT in Hanoi at a cost of approximately 1.8 million US dollars (INR 100 million). India also provided a PARAM supercomputer to Vietnam at a cost of 8.3 million US dollars (INR 460 million). Further, Vietnam has been a key recipient of training programmes under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme and other scholarship schemes. The Advanced Resource Centre in Information and Communications Technology (ARC-ICT) was inaugurated in September 2011 which trains students and government officials in various areas such as web designing, network systems, java, GIS applications and e-governance. The MoU for establishment of a Hi-Tech Crime laboratory was signed in November 2013. The work on establishing the Centre for Satellite Tracking and Data Reception and an Imaging facility in Vietnam is under progress and is expected to utilise data provided by Indian remote sensing satellites and harness it for multiple developmental applications.
The way ahead:
With regard to future cooperation between India and Vietnam, there are several joint ventures where both countries can cooperate. On defence technology, India and Vietnam can deepen cooperation by working jointly on developing short range missiles, landing guidance gear, beyond visual range radars, surveillance and control planes, coastal defence mechanisms and development of submarine fleet. Vietnam today is one of the world’s biggest arms importers and seeks to boost its maritime defensive capability. For strengthening security and defence, the need for maritime patrol aircraft, missile patrol boats, fifth generation fighter aircraft and multiple launch rocket system to build a defensive platform is essential. On the other hand, New Delhi intends to strengthen its combat preparedness through greater domestic R & D, procurement and joint production of defence equipment with its partners. India can become a beneficial partner for Vietnam as it is actively increasing its military capability and on this date has recognisable defence-related research and development performance.
In the civilian sector, there is need to enhance technical cooperation. The Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute (CLRRI) was established in 1977 with support from the Indian government. India helped establish the institute in the Mekong Delta, sending agricultural specialists and training its faculty in India. In rice production and management, India and Vietnam can extend their partnership to explore newer areas for incurring joint benefits. For instance, scientists of India and Vietnam can develop new high-yielding varieties of rice to increase rice production and meet demands of the future. Scientists can study alternative agricultural genetic improvement techniques and efficient irrigation systems to cultivate techniques of producing rice in low water situations. They can also work on small and medium tech engineering, cheap fabrication and software manufacturing of rugged computers, metallurgy and pharmaceuticals, sharing of best practices with regard to processed foods and cold chain management. With regard to industry, the need is for interactive joint projects through science and technology ministry, interaction between science institutes of the two countries and short term training programmes for Vietnam physicists in National Physical Laboratory. Moreover, pioneering research work need to be done by both countries with regard to application of cryogenics in pivotal sectors like agriculture, space science and manufacturing industry. The technology of cryogenics can be used to freeze essential food items and thus extend their shelf life. Both India and Vietnam have agriculture as the mainstay of their economy and as such maintaining and preserving quality food products can ensure reduced wastage and less dependency on imports from other countries as well.
In cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, in which India and Vietnam have already signed an agreement on September 3, 2016, application of cryogenics can support space transportation infrastructure and science missions in operations/post-operations.
Application of cryogenics in manufacturing operations such as grinding and rolling increases functional performance as well. By jointly working on the use of cryogens in the manufacturing sector, India and Vietnam can increase manufacturing quality and thus in the future present a better alternative to Chinese manufacturing processes. (Part 2)
* Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India