Amid South China Sea flux, India, Vietnam to step up maritime connect

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With defence cooperation becoming a key pillar of their partnership, India and Vietnam have decided to engage more effectively in maritime cooperation against the backdrop of growing Chinese assertion in the South China Sea. In a bilateral meeting on January 24, ahead of the India ASEAN Commemorative Summit, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc discussed ways to strengthen and expand their defence ties, with a special focus on the disputed waters of the South China Sea where China continue to construct artificial islands claiming historical rights.

In maintaining respect for international law, both sides agreed to uphold the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and called for an effective and legally-binding Code of Conduct in the East Sea. India will be collaborating with Vietnam in oil and gas exploration in the latter’s exclusive zone and continental shelf with a view to increase its presence in Southeast Asia. This energy cooperation is bound to elicit protests from China.

After the talks between their leaders, India and Vietnam signed a pact in the field of information and broadcasting and another agreement between ISRO and the National Remote Sensing Department of Vietnam for setting up a tracking and data reception station and data processing facility in Vietnam.

Besides defence, trade, capacity building, connectivity, technology transfer and people-to-people contacts also figured in the discussions.The two sides also focused on upscaling their economic ties to achieve the trade target of $15 billion by 2020. In this regard, they discussed enhancing airline and maritime connectivity and doing away with trade barriers. The Vietnamese prime minister sought India’s assistance in areas like capacity-building and English language improvement, technology transfer and credit supply for national defence. India has assured its support through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation, the Quick Impact Projects and long-term scholarships to Vietnamese students in prestigious Indian universities along with the establishment of vocational training centres in Vietnam.

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