Visit of Chairman Vietnam’s National People’s Assembly and India-Vietnam Relations
Brig Vinod Anand, Senior Fellow, VIF

Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue, the Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam, visited India from 15 to 19 December to bolster India-Vietnam cooperation in a number of areas. He is one of the important leaders in the quartet of the top leadership and power structure of Vietnam which comprises of General Secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party, the President, Prime Minister and the Chairman of National Assembly. He is also the first leader of the new dispensation in Vietnam to visit India and it is also being said that Vietnam’s Prime Minister is most likely to visit India early next year to strengthen mutual ties that have seen an ascending trajectory in the recent years.

Current year marks the celebration of fifth anniversary of India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that was signed in September 2016 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vietnam. Before September 2016 there was only a bilateral Strategic Partnership that had existed for a decade. Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two involves enhancing cooperation in a multitude of areas that include political, security, economic, energy, cultural, people to people relations and many more.

Further, next year India and Vietnam would be celebrating 50 years of establishment of their diplomatic relations which will encompass a variety of activities to be undertaken by both sides to mark the event. Therefore, Mr. Hue’s visit could be seen as a precursor to many more visits and exchanges between the two sides next year. Significance of the visit can also be seen from the fact that not only Mr. Hue and his parliamentary delegation was received by his counter parts Shri Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India and Chairman of Rajya Sabha and Shri Om Birla, Speaker of Lok Sabha but also by the President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind. It is also noteworthy to recall that Mr. Hue had a meeting with Sri Om Birla earlier on 07 September on the sidelines of 5th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (WCSP5) in Vienna, Austria. During the recent visit the delegation also met India’s External Affairs Minister to underline the desire for rejuvenation of mutual ties and giving a further fillip to the bilateral relationship.

In addition to exchanging views on legislative issues there were discussions on socio-economic and development issues, regional and global security matters as also on ushering in peace, security, stability and development. Over past several years the relationship between the two legislative bodies has grown and consolidated as both sides have been learning from the each others’ best practices and in the manner and the ways in which these bodies contribute towards formulation and implementation of respective countries’ domestic and foreign policies. Exchanges between the legislative bodies form an important segment of the overall relationship and contribute significantly towards strengthening of bilateral ties.

Furthermore, Vietnam has been a key enabler in enhancing India’s relationship with the ASEAN and is viewed by New Delhi as the most important country for furthering India’s Act East policy. Moreover, India’s Indo-Pacific Initiative (IIPI) rhymes well with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo- Pacific (AOIP) and this was underlined in the ASEAN-India Joint Statement on Cooperation on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific for Peace, Stability, and Prosperity in the Region announced on 28 October 2021. India has emphasised on the centrality of ASEAN while dealing with security and other relevant issues in the region. The Joint Statement also underscores the fact that both AOIP of ASEAN and IIPI of India share the same fundamental principles in promoting peace and cooperation as these involve adherence to rule based order, transparency, respect for sovereignty and international law including and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

India has supported freedom of navigation and over-flight across the South China Sea and settlement of disputes through peaceful means. Both India and Vietnam share similar perceptions on peace, security, stability and development issues being witnessed at the regional and global levels. During the last Prime Ministerial meeting (in virtual mode due to Covid-19) in December 2020 PM Modi had supported the early conclusion of Code of Conduct in South China Sea and had also stressed that it should not undermine the interests of other countries. There are some apprehensions that China might influence the ongoing COC negotiations to limit the access of the SCS to outside countries. At that time Vietnam’s Prime Minister was Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc who is now the President of Vietnam therefore, it is a given that there would be both continuity and stability in the evolving bilateral ties.

While Covid-19 has wreaked havoc all across the globe Vietnam has been able to handle the impact of the pandemic in a commendable way. Last year as Chair of the ASEAN, Vietnam coordinated the joint response of ASEAN to the pandemic. It is also worth noting that both countries as non-permanent members of United Nations Security Council for the year 2021 have coordinated their responses on a number of pressing international security issues in a remarkable way.

Covid-19 has also impacted the economies of both the countries in a negative way but a recovery seems to be on the way. While the trade between both the countries has grown considerably it is dwarfed by Vietnam’s bilateral trade with China. India needs to find ways and means to enhance the bilateral trade in a meaningful way. Vice President Shri Naidu during the meeting with the Vietnamese delegation highlighted the bilateral cooperation in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic. He was thankful of timely support by Vietnam in the shape of provisioning of equipment related to oxygen supply during India’s fight against the second wave of Covid-19 in India.

Further while underscoring the ongoing energy cooperation between ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Petro-Vietnam (PVN) which has been in place for now 30 years Shri Naidu said that India was keen on looking for a 15 years extension of the existing agreement that expires in May 2023. Besides energy cooperation he also highlighted the need to strengthen ties in the areas of defence cooperation, maritime security, capacity building programmes among many others.

Overall the bilateral relationship India and Vietnam has been progressing on a steady and positive path though full potential of cooperation in some areas like trade is yet to be achieved. Vietnam also has potential of cooperating as Quad plus country though that moment may not be right as of now yet there is a possibility of India, Japan and Vietnam to form a trilateral grouping to respond to the evolving security situation in the region. Here, it is important to note that Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh was the first foreign leader to be invited by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. On a broader level India, Vietnam and Japan have a convergence of views on the evolving regional and world order and therefore a trilateral among the three nations will not be out of order and is within the bounds of possibility.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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