Developing Synergies between India and Vietnam: A Sectoral Analysis
Dr. Sanghamitra Sarma*
India-Vietnam Cooperation in Education and Training:
As of 2011, India offers 100 scholarships for graduate and post graduate study/training annually and this number is expected to increase to 150 in 2017. Under the ASEAN framework, the Vietnam-India Centre for English Language Training at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam was set up in July 2007 in Danang. Since June 2016, two English teachers from India have worked at the centre for six months. A similar Vietnam-India Centre for English Language and IT training has been running successfully at the Technical University in Nha Trang. Currently, 150 ITEC slots are being offered to Vietnam every year along with 16 scholarships under the General Cultural Scholarship Scheme (GCSS), 14 scholarships under the Educational Exchange Programme (EEP) and 10 scholarships under the Mekong Ganga Cooperation Scholarship Scheme (MGCSS). The establishment of the Centre for Excellence in Software Development and Training in Ho Chi Minh City will add to capacity-building and boost learning, innovation and job creation.
Ensuring future progress:
On education and training, progress in cooperative ventures in the following grounds can ensure qualitative results.
A youthful population and a growing economy continue to fuel Vietnam’s status as one of the most important emerging education markets in Asia. But higher education capacity is another key factor driving demand for study abroad in the country, one that led as many as 125, 000 Vietnamese students to pursue studies overseas in 2013. Vietnamese higher education is now struggling with a range of structural and systemic challenges. More exchange programmes involving scholars, teachers, experts and students between India and Vietnam can bring positive outcomes for uplifting the traditional friendship to a new height. It is noteworthy to mention that Australia and the US have been serving as the most desired destination for Vietnamese students for the purpose of pursuing higher education. Among the top ten destinations for Vietnamese students, India does not figure in the list, despite the fact that India can offer a substantive combination of quality and affordability. Incentives in the form of scholarships to Vietnamese students, attractive packages to cover living costs of Vietnamese students studying in India and provision of English language training can attract more students who want to pursue higher education in India. A University Network that strengthens connectivity and synergies among institutes of higher learning in both countries can be established to promote regional awareness and human resource development. Students and faculties from the Network can meet annually in educational forums to boost collaborative research that can work towards supporting economic innovation and competitiveness.
Cooperation in culture and tourism:
The sectors in which the interests of India and Vietnam have converged include the ones in which cooperation has acquired salience over the years. These include political, defence, trade, investment and economy, science and technology, education and training. However, cooperation between countries must also be extended to platforms which directly impact the people. It is in this case that the aspect of culture comes in.
Culture, in fact, must be included as an inevitable part of development cooperation agenda, making it as an important developmental tool. Culture creates the fundamental building blocks in the ties that link us to communities and nations. Material indicators like economic growth, military expansion or demographic evolution are not the only ones which determine India’s emergence as a major actor in the global arena. India’s strength also lies in developing and projecting its soft power credentials by using the attractiveness of Indian culture, values and policies. In this case, promotion of yoga, traditional medicine, music, television soaps, dances and films have a considerable role to play. Indian films with Vietnamese subtitles could help portray Indian society, culture and lifestyle. India can set up a centre for traditional medicine in the Indian embassy to reclaim its centuries-old legacy of Ayurveda and Yoga. A special budget allocated only for the purpose of strengthening cultural cooperation between India and Vietnam can go a long way towards promoting mutual understanding among parties.
Cultural exchange between the two countries was institutionalised through a cultural cooperative programme inked in 2011, with a proposal to build an Indian cultural centre in Vietnam in 2014. In this regard, it must be mentioned that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) which oversees the establishment of India’s composite cultural heritage abroad, need to expedite its work on establishing the cultural centre in Hanoi to project a composite picture of the Indian heritage. During the latest high-level bilateral visit in 2016, PM Modi urged for early establishment and opening of the Cultural Centre in Hanoi. The ICCR can host musical festivals, film screenings and art and photography exhibitions which can promote and popularise Indian culture in Vietnam. Apart from this, the translation of literary, cultural and historical works from Hindi and other Indian languages to Vietnamese and vice versa will help to embrace and learn about the history, culture and civilization of respective countries. An Indian foundation can also be set up to promote and strengthen cultural exchange, undertake various forms of activities such as personnel exchanges (dispatching Indian scholars, artists, professionals, sports instructors, and other individuals to Vietnam and inviting Vietnamese scholars, artists, and others to India, exchange of visiting faculties etc.), exhibitions of Indian art works, Indian stage and musical performances, promotion of Indian history, and cooperation and assistance for the diffusion of English language education to expand cooperation in the cultural sector. Vietnamese students can come with grants from the ICCR to study Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and other Indian languages. Indian philosophical and religious teachings, for example those of Aurobindo Ghosh, Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Vedas and Upanishads can also be attractive for students and eager learners from Vietnam.
Tourism development between the two countries can lead to creation of favourable conditions for strengthening the traditional partnership. More people to people contacts can help to create avenues which can alter the general misconceptions about tourism in Vietnam. Tourist hotspots can also be created in collaboration with Indian entrepreneurial partners in and around famous lakes like the Nui Coc Lake in Thai Nguyen Province and the Ba Be lake in Bac Kan Province, which can simultaneously also add to the infrastructural development of the respective provinces. Given the fact that there are more than 10 lakes in Vietnam, lake tourism can form an important component of tourism in Vietnam. Development of pisciculture, along with tourism and recreation are the industries, which if developed can bring potential benefits for local and regional development.
Both India and Vietnam represent forces for peace, security, stability and economic development, bilaterally and as well as in the regional context. As such, deepening sectoral convergence is essential to keep the special partnership on track. Undoubtedly, the most rewarding examples of joint cooperation have been the successful partnerships that have been developed over the years in the political, defence, economy and investment sectors. However, to keep the special bond diversified and dynamic, India-Vietnam cooperation in S & T, education and training and culture and tourism remains essential and perhaps inevitable. Cooperation in these sectors will provide a political warmth and strategic depth to bilateral relations. The complementarities of the countries can well be used to create a promising and reliable partnership that can stand the test of time. Both India and Vietnam have demonstrated increasing interest in going the extra mile to take the relationship forward and an expanded cooperation goes a long way in stimulating resilience in the face of regional challenges that may appear.
 “Achievements of Vietnam Doi Moi Policy”, Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency, December 11, 2014, http://www.vietrade.gov.vn/en/index.php?option=com_content&id=2256:achievements-of-viet-nam-doi-moi-policy-&Itemid=287 accessed February 2, 2017.
 “The Economic Outlook of Southeast Asia, China and India: Beyond the Middle Income Trap”, OECD and ASEAN Secretariat, 2013, https://www.oecd.org/site/seao/Pocket%20Edition%20SAEO2014.pdf accessed February 7, 2017.
 Almost 21 per cent of all government expenditure in 2010 was devoted to education - a larger proportion than seen in any OECD country (Schleicher, Andreas, “Vietnam’s Stunning Rise in School Standards”, BBC News, June 17, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33047924 accessed February 9, 2017). The World Bank in 2012 stated that Vietnam allocated the highest percentage of GDP on education at 6.3 per cent.
 Embassy of India, Hanoi, Vietnam, September 2016, http://indembassy.com.vn/India_viet_nam_relations.php?id=8 accessed February 7, 2017.
 “Challenges in Vietnamese higher education contributing to demand for studying abroad”, ICEF Monitor, September 5, 2015, http://monitor.icef.com/2015/09/challenges-in-vietnamese-higher-education-contributing-to-demand-for-study-abroad/ accessed February 8, 2017.
 According to a survey by the Association of Indian Universities in 2016, only 2087 students came from Southeast Asia in 2013-2014 out of a total of 23,350 students from Asia. Out of 2087 students, 1206 were from Malaysia itself. The approximate figure of number of Vietnamese students studying during this time was not available.
 “Bhattacharya, Dhrubajyoti and Sanghamitra Sarma, “Prime Minister Modi’s Visit to Vietnam: An Assessment”, September 15, 2016, http://www.icwa.in/pdfs/VP/2014/PMModisVisittoVietnamVP15092016.pdf accessed February 8, 2017.
* Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, India