India, Vietnam boost strategic partnership with oil, defence pacts

India and Vietnam have decided to further strengthen their strategic partnership with increased economic and defence cooperation.

The announcement was made after an official meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi with visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in New Delhi today.

The two prime ministers reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive development of the strategic partnership, which, they said, would lead to peace, prosperity and stability for people of both countries and in the wider region.

Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed Vietnam's importance as a pillar of India's Look East Policy while Prime Minister Dung welcomed a greater role for India in the regional and international arena.

In a joint statement issued today, the two prime ministers expressed satisfaction over the progress made by New Delhi and Hanoi in their defence cooperation, including exchange of visits, annual security dialogue, service-to-service cooperation, ship visits, training, capacity building and cooperation in the regional fora, including on humanitarian mine action under ADMM-Plus.

The two leaders called for an early implementation of the $100-million line of credit agreement extended by India to Vietnam for defence procurement and expressed the hope that the ongoing robust defence and security cooperation between the two nations would continue to be strengthened through regular exchanges at high level.

A month after India extended the $100-million line of credit to Vietnam for defence procurement, India has now agreed to supply four naval patrol vessels to Hanoi and increase training to its military personnel.

India and Vietnam also inked a pact for exploration in two additional oil and gas blocks in the resource-rich South China Sea, which evoked a critical response from China, warning that it would firmly oppose any exploration activity in South China Sea if it undermines its "sovereignty and interests."

"As for the likely exploration of South China Sea oil fields between Vietnam and India, I want to say that China's position is consistent and clear," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands. Any lawful and justifiable oil exploration activity in the South China Sea is fine by us. But if such activity undermines sovereignty and interests of China we are firmly opposed to this," he said.

"Currently South China maintains tranquillity in general. I wish all countries do more things that are conducive to the peace and stability of the South China Sea," Hong said.

China seems to have been irked more by the decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung to boost defence and security ties between the two countries.

Further, the two prime ministers agreed that enhancing economic cooperation between both countries should be pursued as a strategic objective.

They welcomed the strong growth in bilateral trade in recent years particularly after the implementation of India-ASEAN trade in goods agreement and noted that the conclusion of India-ASEAN trade in services and investment agreements would further boost economic cooperation between India and ASEAN in general and Vietnam in particular.

The two leaders instructed officials on both sides to utilise established mechanisms such as the joint sub-commission on trade as well as closer PPP and B2B contacts for furthering our shared trade and investment objectives.

The two leaders also called for close cooperation towards the realization of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).

Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Dung emphasised the importance of connectivity between India and Vietnam and welcomed the code share arrangement between Jet Airways and Vietnam Airlines leading to commencement of Jet Airways flights to Ho Chi Minh City from 5 November.

The two leaders also expressed the hope that Vietnam Airlines would commence services to India shortly. and also encouraged air carriers of both countries to further open and operate flights between Vietnam and India.

They agreed to promote maritime connectivity between the two countries and ship building cooperation.

Prime Minister Dung is on a two-day state visit to India. During his visit, the leader witnessed the signing of seven agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between the two nations.