As Vietnam celebrates 40 years of its reunification, Hanoi is eagerly awaiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Southeast Asian country to augment cooperation in trade, tourism and defence.
“Our Prime Minister (Nguyen Tan Dung) has already extended invitation to Mr Narendra Modi when he visited India in October last year. The invitation has been accepted and we expect the Indian Prime Minister here later this year,” director general, directorate of external information Le Van Nghiem told a group of visiting Indian journalists.
“India is our strategic partner. We not only cooperate in the field of trade and business but also in defence,” Nghiem said, adding New Delhi has always supported Hanoi in its dispute with China over East Sea (South China Sea) and India’s ONGC has been carrying out oil exploration even in areas claimed by China.
He sought to emphasise that defence cooperation between India and Vietnam was very important to ensure freedom of navigation in the area.
Asked about Modi’s China visit next month, Nghiem said India’s improved relations with China will be beneficial to Vietnam.
India has been following ‘Look East Policy’ since the 1990s giving importance to its relations with countries of South East Asia and the Far East. The Modi government has chosen to follow ‘Act East Policy’ emphasising a more proactive role for India in this region.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj have already visited Vietnam this year.
It’s understood Vietnam wants BhahMos supersonic cruise missiles from India but New Delhi has been hesitant given the implications such a move could have for its relations with Beijing. Asked about BrahMos, Nghiem said only defence ministry could comment on it.
(The correspondent was in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City at the invitation of Vietnamese Government)