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Media Briefing by Secretary (East) during the official visit of Vice President to Vietnam

May 12, 2019

Under Secretary (Digital Diplomacy): Good evening friends. Thank you for being with us here for the special media briefing on the official visit of Vice President to Vietnam. We have with us here today Secretary (East) Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh, Ambassador of India to Vietnam Shri P Harish and Jt. Secretary (South) Shri Manish. Over to Secretary (East).

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: Hon’ble Vice President is on an official visit to Vietnam. He is here at the invitation of his counterpart the Vice President of Vietnam, Madam Đặng Thị Ngọc Thịnh. Vice President as you are aware is also here to be the keynote speaker at the 16th United Nation day of Vesak.

Hon’ble Vice President during his stay here, so far, he has had an opportunity to have an exchange of view with the leadership of Vietnam. He had a full delegation level talks with his counterpart Madam Thinh. Thereafter she also hosted a banquet in his honor. He has also had a meeting with the chairperson of National Assembly Madam Ngan and extensive discussions with the Prime Minister Phuc.

Hon’ble Vice President has also paid homage and respects at the National Monument of Martyrs and Heroes and also at the Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Vice President also addressed the Indian community and participated in an event organized at embassy of Jaipur foot fitment camp and interacted with the beneficiaries. The camp is being held in a province near Hanoi.

Then today, as you are aware, it marked the opening of the Vesak day celebrations in which the chairperson of the National Assembly hosted a dinner.

Going to the India-Vietnam relations, India and Vietnam relationship has been civilizational, it is about 2000 years old and the evidence of that linkage is there in the Chang civilization as well as in the fact that Buddhism came in here and it is today alive in Vietnam. Therefore our relations with Vietnam are very extensive, they are historical, they are warm, they are friendly and we have a comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam. So the civilizational links as well as the comprehensive strategic partnership are the foundation of our relationship.

The three other discussions which the Hon’ble Vice President had with Vice President Thinh, Chairperson of the National Assembly Madam, Ngan as well as Prime Minister Phuc. They were extensive and they reviewed the entire gamut of the bilateral relations as well as covered regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

The cooperation which we have with Vietnam covers the areas of Defence& Security, Trade & Investment, capacity building as well as working together in the cultural and the information exchange fields.

Today when the discussions took place, you’d have recalled the high level exchanges going on between India and Vietnam. If you look at it 2016 was the year Prime Minister Modi visited Vietnam and at that point of time the relationship was elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Thereafter that year itself the Chairperson of National Assembly visited India in December 2016 and our engagement continued with 2018 marking a year of intense high level engagements.

We had the Prime Minister Phuc of Vietnam participated in the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit as well as the Chief Guest along with the other ASEAN Heads of State in January 2018. Thereafter the then President of Vietnam visited India followed by the visit of our President to Vietnam in November 2018. So Vice President’s visit is in a way marks the constant political conversation between the two countries and to give a momentum to our relationship and to have discussions at the highest level.

Then coming on to defence and security. Our Defence Minister visited Vietnam as did our External Affairs Minister, she was here last year itself. If you look at the defence, in defence we have a constant exchange of views, we have discussions at all the three staff i.e. the Navy, the Air Force and the Military. We have training programs with them, we have extended to them two $100 million Lines of Credit which is being utilized by Vietnam for purchase of high speed petrol vessels. Then we have $500 million line of credit which is also in the process of being utilized by Vietnam again for its defence capabilities. You will also see a number of naval ships as well as coastguard ships as they visit Vietnam regularly. For example three of our ships visited Vietnam in this year itself.

Vietnam is a maritime nation, so is India. We have had the first Maritime Security Dialogue with Vietnam this year. On security also, there is discussion which takes place and exchange of views between the two countries.

Coming on to trade and investment, trade with Vietnam is growing steadily and rapidly. It has almost doubled in the last three years from $7.8 billion to $14 billion and we are on the way to reach the target of $15 billion in 2020, a target which was set by our leaders in 2016.

Vietnam is our fourth largest trading partner in the ASEAN and it is an important trading partner for us. We have a joint sub-commission on trade to discuss the various trade matters and to see how trade and investment can be increased between the two countries. It last met here in Vietnam in January 2019. This dialogue apart from looking at how to increase trade, it also looks in issues related to market access and others, these all are addressed through this forum.

As far as India is concerned, we would very much like to see our pharmaceutical sector entering in Vietnam because they have health system and we would really like to look at it and procuring pharmaceuticals from India generic drugs, because we are one of the most competitive in the world. Hon’ble Vice President took up this matter with Vietnamese leadership. Vice President also emphasized the fact that in both the countries agriculture sector is very important sectors in their economies giving employment to so many people. So there was a discussion on agriculture and may I remind you that it was India who had helped Vietnam in the early days and set up Kulog research center and today Vietnam is doing very well in rice, growth productivity as well as export of rice. So you can see the development partnership between the two countries which has been for the welfare of the people of Vietnam.

Hon’ble Vice President recalling the continuous engagement that the two countries have had in the agriculture sector proposed that both the countries could collaborate in improving farm productivity and work together in post-harvest technologies and crop biotechnologies.

Third area is the economic sector which is significant in our relationship is the oil & gas sector. OVL has investments here close to $630 million. We have two oil blocks here in which oil exploration and extraction processes are ongoing. Hon’ble Vice President emphasized the importance of continue to work in this sector and both sides agreed that we need to see how to expand working together in this sector including through the involvement of third countries, if possible, in Vietnam itself and also the three countries working for oil exploration outside. So oil & gas is an important sector in our relationship.

In terms of connectivity, that again was emphasized by Hon’ble Vice President in his discussions and also by the Vietnamese leadership. There is ongoing discussions on how to start direct flight between the two countries. There is expectation that Indigo will start Kolkata-Hanoi direct flight in October this year and even Vietjet, the Vietnamese airlines is interesting in flying and we will continue to have discussions with Vietnamese side to see how their flight can come, the Hanoi-Delhi flight. So this is work in progress, the two sides will be in touch with each other and we should see direct flights happening in 2019 between our two countries.

Then coming on to the development partnership. Vietnamese leadership expressed their appreciation for the support extended by India over the years in capacity building in various areas. They recalled the support given through the ITEC process and through the ICCR scholarship to the Vietnamese people. Vice President assured them that this support for capacity building would continue.

We also are working in Vietnam through other programs whether we are financing them and working through the projects like under ASEAN the Mekong-Ganga, those are also being implemented here. We have quick impact projects and those projects are undertaken largely for the welfare of the community. Those were deeply appreciated by the Vietnamese leadership and they expressed interest that India continue working in this field. Hon’ble Vice President assured them that we would do so.

The other big project that we have under the ASEAN is the $10 million grant project which is going to be used for setting up of digital village. This is a project which India is undertaking in 4 countries, the CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam). There was discussion on that and Vietnamese leadership expressed interest and we requested for the support being given for the execution of the project.

That is important digital project which brings India’s strength in technology to create technological platforms in Vietnam. The other project that is being undertaken is the center for excellence for software development and training that we are in the process of setting up and Hon’ble Vice President mentioned it and they appreciated it. We hope to have this project complete in discussion with the Vietnamese side.

Then on the culture side, there is a strong work that is going on. We have the ASIT which has been here and it has been undertaking the renovation work in temples at the Mesong, a UNESCO sited area and also the Vice President confirmed that we would offer trained epigraphists in Brahmi and Sanskrit to enhance the understanding of old Cham manuscripts and assist in the digitization and preservation.

On discussions that took place on regional and multilateral issues, there was an exchange of views on Vietnam’s role as India’s coordinator in the ASEAN for the last three years. We thanked them for the support that they had given and of course Vietnam would be the chair of ASEAN next year, so we look forward to working with Vietnam in that context.

Vietnam affirmed that it would continue to work with India in the ASEAN sector and conveyed appreciation for India’s peaceful position on the South China Sea which calls for respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, ensuring the freedom of navigation, overflight, unimpeded economic flows and addressing all differences through peaceful processes by adherence and consistency with international law in particular UNCLOS of 1982.

Vice President also took this opportunity to brief the Vietnamese leadership about India’s inclusive approach to an open, progressive and peaceful Indo-Pacific region.

Talking about multilateral level, Vietnamese side and India discussed our respective memberships to the non-permanent seats to the UN Security Council. We have exchanged and confirmed that India will support Vietnam for the non-permanent seat in UN Security Council for the term 2020-21 while Vietnam will support India for the non-permanent seat in 2021-22. Vietnam reaffirmed support for India’s candidature as a permanent member in the expanded Security Council.

So all in all the talks today were review of the various decisions taken, reaffirmation of the continued high level engagement and of course very important element that comes out in the visit is the old civilizations connect of Buddhism and Vice President will be the keynote speaker tomorrow at the Vesak. So I would say Vietnam is today not only a trustworthy friend of India but it is a very important partner for India in the ASEAN and a key pillar for India in its Act East as well as the Indo-Pacific policies.

Under Secretary (Digital Diplomacy): Thank you Ma’am. We will now have a Q&A session. We request you to first introduce yourselves on the microphone before asking the question, your name and the name of your organization.

Question from Rajya Sabha Television: What does the Vietnamese side want India to do especially on India for Humanity aspect i.e. on the occasion of 150th year of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, India has been now conducting Jaipur foot camps, other than that, you talked about generic medicines which has not yet come to any agreement now, but because we have the occasion and we have very regular dialogue with Vietnam, was there any sense from Vietnam that they would want to have India take part in the India for Humanity activity?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: See, India for Humanity program is a program which is being undertaken on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. We have held camps here in August last year and they were deeply appreciated by the Vietnamese, the government, the beneficiaries and the people at large. It is because of that reason we are holding the camp for the second time in Vietnam. There is deep appreciation for it and India for Humanity is actually an initiative being undertaken by the government of India in partnership with the Mahaveer Viklang Organization.

So that is India and its NGO partner, we move and execute it in other countries and there was appreciation for the work which is being done and I think we will continue to see how we can work together with Vietnam in this initiative also. But as far as Mahatma Gandhi is concerned, he is a universal figure, there is respect for him in Vietnam and we would be of course as a part of the global celebration undertaking more programs here in Vietnam which the embassy will take the lead.

Question from Doordarshan News: You mentioned that Vietnam is looking forward to get pharmaceuticals from India, so is there any specific way forward like how to go forward in that direction, second part that I want to ask that was there any round of discussion in which terrorism was touched upon after the recent development in Sri Lanka, so was there any discussion in that direction?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: As far as pharmaceuticals is concerned, already there is export of pharmaceuticals which is taking place in Vietnam. What we really are looking for is that our pharmaceuticals be used even for the public sector, so that is where the discussions are and we will continue to hold discussions. It was agreed that under the joint sub commission on trade there is a working group on pharmaceuticals and we will continue to have discussions on that issue between the two countries. Hon’ble Vice President and the leadership of Vietnam both have tasked the officials to take forward the discussions within the institutional mechanism for this purpose.

As far as terrorism is concerned, it has been condemned by Vietnam in strong terms. Of course they condemned the recent Pulwama incident which had taken place, so terrorism is an issue on which both countries have similar view and we have repeatedly at various forums rejected terrorism and described it as a threat to humanity.

In fact when Rashtrapati Ji came here in December 2018 there was a joint statement which was issued and in that terrorism was condemned in the strongest terms and that position continues to remain today as well.

Question from Manorama Times: As far as the security aspect is concerned, was there any discussion on India being a security provider in the region especially in the wake of asserting ways by some other countries especially in South China Sea?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: I won’t say that there were discussions in that direction but there is a similarity of view between the two countries on South China Sea and that is that we must have sea which has open sealinks for open communication, unimpeded freedom of navigation and overflight.

So those discussions took place and as I mentioned to you that we have regular defence dialogue with Vietnam, so keep discussing issues relating to developments in our region and beyond as our two countries are having comprehensive strategic partnership.

Question from Sakal: India being the origin of Buddhism, do you have any scheme to enhance religious tourism from Vietnam to India, so that cultural interaction enhances?

Secretary (East), Smt. Vijay Thakur Singh: As far as Buddhism is concerned, you may be aware that there is already a Buddhist circuit which India is promoting in Vietnam and globally, so that is already on works. We do hope that the direct flight which will happen between our two countries will cater to the tourist flow and we hope to build on it. The very fact that our Hon’ble Vice President is here to attend the Vesak Day demonstrate the connect of Buddhism between two countries and of course we look forward to tourism growing between our two countries.

Under Secretary (Digital Diplomacy): Since there are no more questions, this media briefing is now concluded. Thank you very much for joining us.

 

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