By Priyanka Tikoo
New Delhi, Feb 28 (PTI) Ahead of his India visit, Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang has strongly advocated enhanced trade ties and boosting maritime and aerial connectivity between the two countries, a push that comes amid increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region.
Tran, who will arrive in India on March 2 on a three-day state visit, also feels that India and Vietnam are "blessed" with strategic locations in South Asia and South East Asia, respectively, and there is immense potential for the two countries to cooperate in different areas.
"Furthermore, both countries are endowed with advantages to develop maritime economy. In this regard, we could increase information exchange and share experience in formulating maritime strategies," Tran told PTI in an interview.
His call for deepening Indo-Vietnam maritime connectivity assumes significance as the US, Japan and a number of other countries have pitched for a greater role for India in the Indo-Pacific region, apparently to contain China's growing influence.
The Vietnamese leader also said both countries have forged a high level of political trust through mutual visits at the high and lower levels, and worked closely for effective implementation of the signed agreements, particularly the Joint Vision Statement on Defense Cooperation for 2015–2020.
"In order to achieve the target of USD 15 billion of bilateral trade turnover by 2020, both sides need to promote investment in areas where India’s advantages coincide with Vietnam's demands, step up aviation and maritime connectivity, and reduce and work towards abolition of the trade barriers so as to create favorable conditions for the two-way trade," Tran said in the email interview.
The strong pitch by the Vietnamese president for increased aviation and maritime connectivity with India may not go down well with China, which is in conflict with Vietnam and several other countries in the region, including Brunei and the Philippines over maritime claims in the South China Sea.
The presidential visit comes just over a month after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc's trip to India as one of the chief guests for the Republic Day parade.
Tran also identified defence, security and trade as effective strategic areas of cooperation.
"India and Vietnam are blessed with strategic locations in South Asia and South East Asia, respectively, aside from young population, large workforce, huge markets and rapid economic growth. Hence, the two countries may promote cooperation in such areas as production, manufacturing, infrastructure development, renewable energy, information technology...and new technology application such as biotechnology, green agriculture, nano technology, new materials, among others," he said.
He also asserted that Indian initiatives, including 'Make in India', 'Digital India' and '100 Smart Cities', and India's achievements in developing a knowledge economy offer multiple opportunities for cooperation, investment and doing business for enterprises of both countries