Vietnam - India: New Context, New Vision
Prof. Dr. Le Van Toan*
Discussing the new world context, depending on the specific approach and issues, scholars will emphasize such related specific factors as culture, economics, etc. In this article, we take the most general approach to find out factors that have greatest multi-dimensional impacts on nations. Our world today is the world in flux with dramatic, complicated and unpredictable changes that have profound and comprehensive influences on all aspects of the social life of all nations, including Vietnam and India.
The rapid developments in science and technology have led the mankind into the fourth industrial revolution, particularly information technology and biotechnology with continued great leaps are increasingly becoming productive forces that directly boost economic development, speeding up the shift of economic structures and profound transformation in social life. Knowledge and intellectual property are playing an increasingly important role. People and knowledge are increasingly becoming the critical factors in the development of every nation. This revolution confirms K.Marx is right to predict that science will someday become a direct productive force.
The vigorous process of restructuring the economies and regulating global financial institutions, persisting consequences of the financial crisis and the rise of protectionism all have become major barriers to international trade.
Economic globalization, internationalization of production and division of labor have been growing in depth and width, the role of transnational companies have been enhanced. Participation in global production networks and value chain has become an indispensable requirement for economies.
Many politics - security issues are emerging in today’s world of uncertainties. The common desire of countries is to maintain peace, stability, cooperation and development. However, the world now is characterized by many complicated changes and intertwining trends of both competition and interdependence between the great powers; strategic adjustments by major countries; religious, ethnic, security, development issues; competition for strategic resources and sensitive territories, maritime disputes, most notably the emergence of Islamic extremism with the so called “Islamic State”; conflicts in the Middle East, the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and Arab countries; tensions between Russia and USA, between Russia and European Union; increasing complexity in the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea issues. UK’s Brexit and the victory of billionaire Donald Trump in the US Presidential election have suggested the return of protectionism, the rise of populism, which will have impacts on international relations dynamics. Natural disasters, climate change, migration crises, epidemics, crimes, population explosion, poverty,.. are all challenges and imperatives that require responses of global institutions.
The Asia-Pacific region is experiencing profound transformation along with internationalization and regionalization process. Many scientists have asserted that the concepts of “Asian Century” and “Pacific Century” are practical concepts that reflect the dynamics, complexity and geo-politic, geoeconomic and geo-cultural gravity of the region. Among the maritime areas in Asia, the Gulf of Thailand can be said to be peaceful while the East China Sea and South China Sea (especially the South China Sea) are playing an increasingly important role in world politics. Against the current context of regional and world relations, the South China Sea is much in flux. It should be noted that, unlike in other areas including the Indian Ocean and the Northwest of Pacific Ocean, developments in the South China Sea will have significant impacts, even changes in strategic views of some countries, among which the United States and China are leading countries with direct involvement in this strategic area.
It is not by chance that China has viewed the 21st Century as the Ocean's epoch, taking the sea and ocean issues to the fore of development priorities with well-prepared strategies. Along with rapid economic development and military modernization efforts, China's growing claims to sovereignty, encroachment in the South China Sea, claiming the "nine-dash line", reclaiming reefs, establishing the demilitarized zones, ignoring the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against China's claim of "nine-dash line" in the area. All of these steps are intended to monopolize occupation of South China Sea.
It is not by chance that in pursuit of the pivotal strategy to the Asia-Pacific region, the United States officially declared that the 21st Century will be The Pacific Century. The official statement was made by the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the APEC Summit which included leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific economies in Honolulu on 10 November 2011. In China on 05 September 2012, the United States Secretary of State affirmed that in the US’s perspective, Asia-Pacific region is the driving force for the world's economic and political development in the 21st Century. To realize this strategy, along with the call for participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the United States has upgraded its military relations, enhanced military deployment in the South China Sea, and conducted joint exercises with concerned countries including Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, India,...
The ideas of The Pacific Century has been repeatedly addressed by the United States in international political fora as well as realized on the ground. Of course, the human civilization will shift, as ever before, from ancient Rome to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, and if social progress follows the rules despite many challenges and uncertainties, the Asia-Pacific Century will be a promising reality in the 21st Century.
These are only basic sketches and insufficient description of the new context. However, they are enough to show that the new context is extremely complicated and unpredictable that requires a new in-depth and far-reaching vision. Facing a world of unpredictable changes, development thinking must catch up with those changes.
Overview of Vietnam, India and Vietnam-India relations
Today, Vietnam has been going through a process of reforming and renewing development mindset towards a socialist-oriented market economy, with the people-centered approach in which all people have the opportunity to participate and benefit, for the goal of "prosperous people, powerful country, democracy, equality and civilization". Vietnam is running a market economy to efficiently mobilize and allocate all available resources. Thanks to reform and integration, Vietnam has become a fast-growing economy in Asia, a major exporter of rice and many other agricultural products. According to the United Nations, Vietnam has made impressive poverty reduction efforts with the current poverty rate of less than 10%. Vietnam is now a low middle-income country with a GDP per capita of more than $2,000.
As the birthplace of one of the four great ancient civilizations of the humankind, India has a long-standing and rich traditional culture and always plays an important role in terms of geopolitics, geo-economics and geostrategic. Today, India has emerged as the fastest growing economy in the world. It is estimated that by 2020 or 2030, India will become the world's third-largest economy after the United States and China, and the fourth-largest country in term of defense capabilities after the United States, Russia, and China. With the world's second-largest population, young and large workforce with dynamic thinking on development, India is likely to become a model for the combination of economic development and democratic institutions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe viewed India as a great peak in the four-peak security diamonds of Japan, Australia, India and the US state of Hawaii to safeguard the maritime commons starting from the Indian Ocean Region to the Western Pacific. The ideas of India as a power have been nurtured by Indian leaders for decades and now further developed in today’s context by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s determination towards economic development, internal stability, rejuvenation of the country, enhancing defense capabilities, renewal of foreign policy, of which economic diplomacy and expansion of strategic partnerships are key priorities.
Vietnam and India have civilizational linkages that lasted for over two millennia. Buddhism and later Hinduism have made great contributions to cultural exchanges between the two countries. In recent history, the friendship between President Ho Chi Minh and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the two great leaders of the two countries, laid a solid foundation for the bilateral relations. India and Vietnam have always supported each other in the struggle against colonialism and imperialism, for national independence and freedom. Today, Vietnam - India relations continue to grow on the basis of reliable friendship and strong mutual support by both leaders and people of the two countries.
Vietnam and India have been further deepening their cooperation in many areas after the bilateral relations were upgraded to strategic partnership in 2007 and comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016. The two countries repeatedly exchanged high-level visits, with visits to India by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the President, the Chairperson of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister of Vietnam. In return, the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice President of India and the Speaker of Lok Sabha also visited Vietnam. These high-level visits have not only created the groundwork and driving forces for implementation of signed cooperation agreements but also strengthened the political trust between the two countries.
The two countries attach great importance to bilateral relations and agree to further deepen our comprehensive strategic partnership in all areas of politics, economics, energy, defense, security, culture, education, science and technology... They have agreed to intensify exchanges of high-level visits and exchanges at other levels through many channels of the Party, the Government, the National Assembly, ministries, localities and people, to make full use of the existing cooperation mechanisms including the intergovernmental committee, political consultation, strategic dialogue, defense policy dialogue, economic engagements, cooperation in energy, culture, education, science and technology, to fully implement all agreements signed between the two countries.
Indian leaders affirmed their consistent support for the traditional friendship and strategic partnership between Vietnam and India, viewing Vietnam as an important pillar in India’s Look East Policy and current Act East Policy, and in promoting India – ASEAN engagements.
The two countries have agreed and emphasized the need to strengthen and deepen economic, trade, investment, defense and security relations, among which enhancing economic cooperation between the two countries to achieve the trade volume of $15 billion by 2020 are a strategic target. To intensify the defense and security cooperation on the basis of the agreed mechanisms and Indian continued support in terms of credit, training and capacity building in defence and security, sharing of experience on UN peacekeeping forces, coordination at multilateral forums including the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM Plus), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF),..
Leaders of the two countries have shown agreement on international and regional issues of common concerns, with the South China Sea as one of the key issues. The two countries continue to coordinate at international fora including ASEAN – India Summit, East Asia Summit (EAS), Ganga - Mekong Cooperation, Asia - Europe Meeting (ASEM), Non-Alignment Movement, South-South Cooperation and the United Nations.
Vietnam and India have agreed to emphasize the importance of ensuring peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and over flight in the South China Sea, resolving disputes through peaceful means without threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Seas (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), supporting the early finalization of the Code of Conduct (COC), recognizing and supporting the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against the Chinese claim on the ‘nine-dash line’ in the South China Sea.
Vietnam and India have agreed to enhance cooperation in culture, education, science and technology and other areas; jointly sign cooperation agreement in remote sensing technology, strengthening air, land and sea connectivity, effectively organize Vietnam-India People’s Friendship Festivals every two years.
Over the past forty-five years, Vietnam-India relations have been growing with significant achievements, but what achieved are not commensurate with the inherent potentials and expectations of the two countries. To realize the potentials, only political trust and determination are not enough. Responsibility, enthusiasm and above all a proactive mindset are strongly required since every limit to development come from the people, depending on their conscience, vision and organization skills, as well as operating principles of institutions and mechanism to fulfill tasks.
In the new context of the world today, a new vision by Vietnam and India is strongly required, which the two countries are already aware of. We believe that this new context shows both challenges and opportunities for us to strengthen India-Vietnam partnership for stability, development and prosperity of the two nations and for peace, stability and development of the region and the world.
* Centre for Indian Studies, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics