PM Modi says India to work with Vietnam for open Indo-Pacific region

By Reuters   March 2, 2018 | 11:15 pm PT
PM Modi says India to work with Vietnam for open Indo-Pacific region
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hands with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang prior to a meeting and agreement signing in New Delhi on March 3, 2018. Photo by AFP/Prakash Singh
Vietnam and India share security concerns about the aggressive advancement of China in disputed waters.

India and Vietnam resolved to work together for "an open Indo-Pacific region where sovereignty and international laws are respected", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday as the two countries look to counter China's assertive military posture in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea - one of Asia's most volatile hotspots.

Modi was speaking at a joint statement with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang following delegation level talks in New Delhi. China claims most of the South China Sea, a key trade route and home to areas that are believed to hold large quantities of oil and natural gas. Along with China, parts of the South China Sea are subject to competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

India, on the other hand, is looking to check China's growing presence in Southeast Asia. China is building ports and power plants in countries around India's periphery, such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and spurring New Delhi to seek new allies. Among a series of steps to strengthen cooperation in the region, India has been discreetly improving Vietnam's defences.

Quang said India and Vietnam would strive to raise bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2020. The two countries signed three agreements in areas of trade, agriculture and atomic energy.

Bilateral trade between India and Vietnam has seen continuous growth over the past many years. India is among the top 10 trading partners of Vietnam. According to government figures, total trade between the two countries during April - Nov of fiscal year 2016-2017 was $ 6244.92 million.

Earlier on Saturday, Quang was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace in the national capital and he met Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj.

Vietnam's President landed in New Delhi on Friday night as part of his three-day visit to India with key focus on revisiting bilateral security ties between the nations.

Before landing in Delhi, Quang visited the Mahabodhi temple in India's northern Bihar state with his wife, Nguyen Thi Hien. The popular Buddhist pilgrimage is known as the place where the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. He was presented with traditional saffron scarves by the monks.

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