Vietnam – India Relation
Assoc. Prof. Ph.D. Le Van Toan*
4. Impacts of the new context and new vision on Vietnam – India relations
Scholars who participated in the international seminars agreed that Vietnam-India relations have seen and will see both positive and negative impacts of the new context of the region and the world, impacts of the overall frameworks of international (both the bilateral and multilateral) relations.
The world now is going through tremendous, fast, complicated and unpredictable fluctuations and changes, with intertwining trends of both competition and interdependence among countries. Many issues have emerged at the same time, including the expansion of presence and influence of international terrorism, migration in Europe, conflicts in the Middle East, tensions in Russian - US and Russian - EU relations, increasing complexity in Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea issues. The UK’s Brexit with impacts on the European Union's operation and structure, the victory of billionaire Donald Trump in the US President election, developments in the election campaigns in France and Italy have all implied the return of protectionism, the rise of populism, the dominance of pragmatism in international relations, which may lead to inconsistence in both speeches and actions of many heads of state.
Knowledge and intellectual property are playing an increasingly important role as the critical the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Describing the current world context, Professor Jeffrey Sachs wrote in his article “The shifting global landscape": “Here is the key point. The dominance of the North Atlantic was a phase of world history that is now closing. It began with Columbus, took off with James Watt and his steam engine, was institutionalized in the British Empire until 1945 and then in the so-called American century, but has now run its course. The United States remains strong and rich, but no longer dominant. We are not heading into the China Century, or the India Century, or any other, but a World Century. The rapid spread of technology and the near-universal sovereignty of nation states means that no single country or region will dominate the world in economy, technology, or population”.
Against that backdrop, what are the implications for countries, including Vietnam and India? What can we do to promote and strengthen Vietnam - India relations?
It can be acknowledged that Vietnam - India bilateral cooperation in some key areas has been growing with positive achievements. However, these achievements remain limited in comparison with the potentials and expectations of each country. This requires a new vision and new approach in the relations. In addition to such external factors as the impacts or aftershocks of the global financial - economic crisis, the new context in the region and the world characterized by profound, complicated and unpredictable changes, subjective or internal factors including the lack of proactive approach, poor socioeconomic infrastructure, low completeness of products, the lack of information, particularly specific and in-depth information on science, technology and the market, geographic distance, differences in culture, psychology and habits,.. are remaining barriers to cooperation and development.
5. Overall assessment of Vietnam-India relations
Over the past fifty years, while the world and relations between countries have seen many changes, Vietnam - India relations have experienced an upward trajectory of steadfast developments without any changes and troubles despite the distance and differences in races, religions, development orientations, their respective roles, and positions in the world. So what are the foundation and driving forces for this all-weather and exceptionally cozy friendship? The following factors can be affirmed:
-Firstly, cultural background
Vietnam and India had cultural exchanges and acculturation since the early years BC. The two cultures encountered on the basis of the core values of humanity, sharing the sense of community, simplicity and warmth that created the long-lasting linkages. The traces of cultural linkages are now preserved and promoted in both Vietnam and India.
- Secondly, the sharing of diplomatic thoughts between President Ho Chi Minh, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who laid the groundwork for bilateral relations, in four key issues: 1/ Basic national rights: national independence, unification, sovereignty and territorial integrity; 2/ Diplomatic thoughts for peace, for human and social freedom; 3/ Diplomatic thought for independence and self-reliance; 4/ The ideas of international solidarity and cooperation.
Similarities of the two countries are nurtured and strengthened by many generations of Vietnamese and Indian leaders: 1/ Sharing cultural and religious values; 2/ The two countries promote their friendship for the interests of the two countries as well as of the region and the world; 3/ The two countries have a traditional friendship on the basis of political trusts; 4 / Both countries have geostrategic, geopolitical and geopolitical interests in the South China Sea.
- Thirdly, Vietnam-India relations have been developed synchronously from grassroots to superstructures with political trust as the common thread. At an international level, even some strong bilateral relations may experience the “ups and downs”, even with painful lessons in some cases while Vietnam and India have specially sincere relations with strong mutual trust despite all challenges.
The bilateral relations between Vietnam and India have been promoted comprehensively through the various channels from Party-to-Party, Parliament-to-Parliament, Government-to-Government to People-to-People channel through political organizations and associations such as Vietnam-India Friendship Association, India-Vietnam Solidarity Committee, with various innovative networking activities including meetings, consultations, seminars, cultural and arts festivals, book exhibitions, information and communication, education, training, science and technology, tourism linkages between people of the two countries.
- Fourthly, the regional and world context in every period have various impacts on Vietnam -India relations, pushing the two countries to come closer together for the interests of both countries, and for peace and prosperity in the region and the world.
- Fifthly, Vietnam’s Doi Moi or Renovation since 1986 and India's economic reforms since 1991 have laid the foundation for encouraging achievements in each country, creating momentum for development and cooperation between the two countries. Also, the upgrade of India’s Look East Policy into Act East Policy to respond to the changing context, in which Vietnam is regarded as an important pillar, plays an important role in deepening Vietnam-India relations.
6. Recommendations and Proposals
Over the past 45 years, Vietnam and India have developed strong partnership with high political trust. For Vietnam, Indian people are always sincere and warm, which has been affirmed by what India has done to support Vietnam for many decades. Recently, as the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee said while visiting Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and together with the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang inaugurated the Centre for Indian Studies "The relationship between the two countries has been better than ever before. To protect national interests and shared interests of peace and prosperity, India and Vietnam must stand side by side. India will always remain a reliable and all-weather friend of Vietnam".
In order to substantialize the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and India, the following issues should be taken seriously:
Firstly, to encourage sincerity, responsibility, profound understanding of the changing context, vision, mindset and proactive approach of leaders and people at all operational levels in promoting Vietnam – India partnership, since every limits 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.
Secondly, in the current context of globalization and liberalization, a tendency is being shaped and activated towards the return of protectionism, the emergence and expansion of populism, the changes in strategies of great powers that will affect many bilateral and multilateral relations, partnership with India as an all-weather friend with an increasingly important position in the world in terms of politics, economics, science and technology, is of special significance for Vietnam. Our Party and Government should develop a specific plan to further cherish and promote Vietnam-India relations, firstly to set up a specific mechanism and facilitate fundamental study on India, then to formulate particular policies, take specific steps, periodically review the bilateral cooperation in every areas to find out lessons that should be learned to further enhance cooperation with India.
Thirdly, thanks to the long-term vision of leaders from both countries, Vietnam-India relations have been strengthened and upgraded to the comprehensive strategic partnership. However, specific cooperation efforts at ministries/agencies and lower levels remain lagging far behind, and to some extent, leaving negative impacts on the bilateral relations. In particular, as Indian officials and scholars observe, India has now more than 200 representative offices to promote cooperation in Vietnam, while there are only a few Vietnam’s representative offices in India, many Vietnamese people at operational levels seem to focus more on short-term benefits than the long-term ones in the bilateral relations, thus making it difficult for Indian firms to explore the market, offer tender and invest in Vietnam, etc..
Fourthly, to mobilize more resources for Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics to carry out in-depth and basic research in theoretical and practical aspects across various areas of India, thus suggesting new ideas and recommendations for Vietnam - India relations. The Centre for Indian Studies (CIS) in Vietnam was inaugurated by Presidents of the two countries on September 15, 2014. As a new study centre, CIS has undertaken some significant programs. However, these programs remain limited and more investment is needed to improve the performance of CIS to meet the expectations of the two countries, as the Indian President said at the inaugural ceremony of the CIS: "I am confident that this Center will become the focal point of academic exchanges and enrich bilateral relations between the two countries". In the future, a Centre for Vietnamese Studies should be set up in India.
- Fifthly, to enhance the Party-to-Party cooperation between the Communist Party of Vietnam and Indian political parties, including the Communist Party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) and Indian National Congress, with more focus on the ruling parties.
In the immediate future, it is suggested Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and the Central Theoretical Council to connect with Indian competent agencies, especially strategic research groups of BJP, to discuss the cooperation framework specifically through: 1/ High-level consultation and exchange between the two parties; 2/ Regular seminars and workshops between think-tanks of the two parties to do practical and theoretical research, provide scientific arguments to propose new guidelines and policies.
Sixthly, to proactively make full use of Indian key initiatives and strategies under the Act East policy with Vietnam as a pillar, including Indian investment projects in Vietnam and other initiatives, specifically: 1/ In science and technology, while India is keen to study and participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Vietnam should proactively connect and cooperate with India in technology transfer in all related industries; 2/ India is setting up the Project Development Fund (PDF) with a corpus of $70 million with proposal for 50-year land lease in Vietnam to encourage Indian investors in such industries as pharmaceuticals and defense industry to do business in Vietnam; 3/ India shows great interests to promote India - ASEAN connectivity, to implement the Ganga-Mekong Cooperation initiative, to develop and connect the Northeastern region of India with ASEAN, to implement the India-Myanmar-Thailand tri-lateral highway project connecting to Laos and Lao Bao (Vietnam), connecting between Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, with one branch via Luong Prabang (Laos), connecting with Dien Bien Phu via Tay Trang border gate to Hanoi and Hai Phong; proactively promote air connectivity between Vietnam and India; 4/ Proactively realize the potentials and advantages of the two countries to increase two-way trade volume to $15 billion by 2020. 5/ In education and training, Vietnam should have specific strategies to choose and send the most competent people to India for training in such areas of Indian advantages as information technology, cyber security, satellite manufacturing, remote sensing technology, nuclear power for peaceful purposes, social sciences and humanities studies including culture, philosophy, economics, media, movies, etc.. 6/ Engage more actively in enhancing mutual understanding, publicity and sharing of information, especially updated information on each country, opportunities for exchanges and cooperation in investment, tourism, culture, spirituality, strengthening the connectivity between agencies, political organizations, people and businesses of the two countries in the new context, thus deepening Vietnam-India relations under the comprehensive strategic partnership framework.
 Quoted by Sudarshan Ramabadran, Research Fellows of the India Foundation, at the international seminar on "Vietnam – India: 45 years of Diplomatic Relations and 10 years of Strategic Partnership".
* Centre for Indian Studies, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics.