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India, Vietnam vow to jointly work for open, prosperous Indo-Pacific

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang before their delegation level meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: AP

New Delhi: India and Vietnam on Saturday resolved to work jointly for an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific along with an efficient and rules-based regional security architecture, seen as a message to China over its growing military expansion in the region.

After wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang, the two strategic partners inked three pacts providing for cooperation in nuclear energy, trade and agriculture, besides deciding to boost ties in oil and gas exploration.

Modi said both sides expressed commitment for an open, efficient and rules-based regional architecture and to expand bilateral maritime cooperation further. “We will jointly work for an open, independent and prosperous Indo Pacific region where sovereignty and international laws are respected and where differences are resolved through talks,” Modi said in a media statement in the presence of the Vietnamese president.

In an apparent reference to the South China Sea dispute, the Vietnamese president said it supports India’s multi-faceted “connectivity” with ASEAN and asserted that there must be freedom of navigation and over flight in the region. He said that disputes must be resolved through peaceful means.

Vietnam and several other ASEAN member countries have territorial disputes with China over the resource-rich South China Sea. While India, the US and several other world powers have been pressing for resolution of the dispute on the basis of international law, China has been favouring a bilateral framework with respective countries.

“We reaffirm our close collaboration to support India to further its relations and multi-faceted connectivity with ASEAN attaching high importance to the maintenance of security, maritime safety and freedom of navigation and over flight, settlement of disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law including ULCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Quang said.

The Vietnamese president said it was important to respect the diplomatic and legal process in resolution of the dispute. He said both sides also agreed to work closely to address regional security challenges including in the domain of maritime and cyber security.

On defence cooperation, which is on an upswing, the prime minister said both sides decided to cooperate in defence production and explore opportunities in transfer of technology. During the talks, Modi said India and Vietnam have also “agreed” to deepen trade and investment ties in sectors like oil and gas exploration, renewable energy, agriculture and textiles.

He said the two sides will also look for trilateral partnership in oil and gas sector. The three pacts signed after the talks between the two leaders will provide for cooperation in areas of nuclear energy, trade and agriculture.

Earlier in the day, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called on the Vietnamese president. Their discussions focused on steps to further strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership by expanding cooperation across all sectors, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. Quang was also given a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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