India and Vietnam on Monday agreed to boost practical cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of increasing concerns over rising Chinese belligerence in the region. They also inked seven agreements to expand bilateral ties in defence, nuclear energy and several other sectors.
At a virtual summit with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Vietnam as an important partner in India’s Indo-Pacific vision as well as for its Act East policy, and said that peace, stability and prosperity in the region is the common goal of both sides.
In the wake of growing belligerence by China in the South China Sea region, the two leaders specifically reaffirmed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, while pursuing peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law without resorting to “threat or use of force”.
Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Riva Ganguly Das told the media that there was a strong convergence of views between the two leaders in promoting coordination to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including cross-border terrorism, terror-financing networks and safe havens.
In his initial remarks at the summit, Modi said India looks at ties with Vietnam with a long-term and strategic perspective, and that cooperation between the two countries can contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the region.
A document, titled ‘India-Vietnam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People’, released after the summit, said the two sides will step up military-to-military exchanges, training and capacity building programmes across the three services and coast guards, as it was agreed that enhanced bilateral defence and security partnership would be an important factor of stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Modi stressed that the Code of Conduct negotiations on the South China Sea should not prejudice the interest of other countries in the region, Das said. She said Modi also invited Vietnamese companies to invest in India and highlighted the urgent need for long-overdue review of ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement as a concrete step towards revitalising economic engagement between the two countries as well as the larger ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region.
In reference to South China Sea, the vision document said both leaders also underscored the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, and avoidance of actions that could further complicate the situation or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability.
She said both leaders also spoke of the importance of promoting a rules-based order in the region including by upholding international law, especially the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), adding that they affirmed that a peaceful, stable, secure, free, open, inclusive and rules-based region is in the common interest of all countries.
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