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India, Vietnam call for ‘free navigation’ in S China Sea

In our cooperation in the area of defence and security, we are committed to promotion of peace in our region,” Mukherjee said in his speech.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | Hanoi |
Updated: September 16, 2014 1:26:54 am
Pranab Mukherjee with Truong Tan Sang in Hanoi on Monday. Pranab Mukherjee with Truong Tan Sang in Hanoi on Monday.

India and Vietnam sent out a stern message on Monday to “concerned parties” by reiterating that the “freedom of navigation in the East Sea/South China Sea should not be impeded”. Among the seven agreements India and Vietnam signed are a $100-million credit line for defence procurement for Vietnam — including patrol vessels — and a letter of intent between ONGC Videsh Limited and PetroVietnam for exploration of new oil blocks.

Though the joint statement by President Pranab Mukherjee and Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang did not name any country, this is the second instance in recent weeks that India has chosen to send a covert message to China from foreign soil. This is the fourth year of India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam.

Though details of the defence equipment to be procured by Vietnam are still being finalised, among the items under consideration, sources say, are vessels to patrol the country’s maritime borders.

The other agreements that were signed relate to cooperation on matters pertaining to customs, animal health, transfer of technology for setting up catfish breeding and farming in India, youth affairs and a MoU between Jet Airways and Vietnam Airlines for daily flights between Delhi and Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh City.

In his speech at the inauguration of an India Study Centre at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, President Mukherjee spoke of a time when cooperation between the two countries would reach a level when it will be possible to “drive from Hanoi to Kolkata” and quoted Ho Chi Minh in describing the sustained partnership between India and Vietnam as a “cloudless sky”. “We in India consider Vietnam as a trusted friend and an important pillar of India’s ‘look East Policy’. In our cooperation in the area of defence and security, we are committed to promotion of peace in our region,” Mukherjee said in his speech.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Indian Express soon after signing the MoU, Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal said: “We are looking at operating daily flights from Mumbai and Delhi from November 5. We have high hopes that the flights will do well. It will be a Boeing 737-800 aircraft. It is a joint venture with Vietnam Airlines.”

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