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As Vice President of India M. Venkaiah Naidu was on his four-day official visit to Vietnam, we look at India’s comprehensive strategic partnership with the Southeast Asian nation…

In his packed tour… the Vice President had one-on-one talks with the leaders of Vietnam… participate in the 16th United Nations Day of Vesak and deliver keynote address at the inaugural session of the event themed as “Buddhist Approach to Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Sustainable Societies.”

During the high level talks, the two sides discussed a wide range of issues including trade & investment relations, giving better market access to India’s exports, exploring opportunities in oil and gas sectors, seeking support for Indian pharmaceutical facilities in Vietnam, cooperation in defence and space technologies, training and capacity building of Vietnamese defence forces and strengthening of cultural bonds between the two nations are expected to figure during the talks…


Bilateral Relations:

  • Cultural and economic links between India and Vietnam date back to 2nd century.
  • India and Vietnam have robust trade and economic relations with bilateral trade of USD 12.8 billion in 2017-18.
  • Trade and economic linkages continue to grow.
  • Defence Cooperation has emerged as a significant pillar of India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam.
  • Military exchanges between India and Vietnam are quite robust. The two sides conducted their first-ever bilateral land warfare and naval exercises in early 2018.
  • Indian ships regularly make friendly port calls to Vietnam.
  • For the first time, a Vietnamese ship participated in the International Fleet Review at Vishakhapatnam, in February 2016.
  • The Indian Business Chamber (INCHAM) is an organisation of Indians living in Vietnam, primarily to promote trade and business interactions.
  • The Indian Cultural Centre was opened in Hanoi in September 2016, with the objective of strengthening India’s cultural presence in Vietnam.


Significance of the Relationship:

  • India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the first visitors to Vietnam after its victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
  • Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy, and key interlocutor in ASEAN.
  • Over the years, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides.
  • India’s thrust under the ‘Act East’ policy combined with Vietnam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends.
  • India and Vietnam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides UN and WTO.
  • Both India and Vietnam possess the capacity to find compatibility in areas promoting defence cooperation and infrastructure simultaneously.
  • Vietnam, which is under maritime pressure from China’s activities in the South China Sea (SCS), wants India to deepen its military engagement further.

 India’s Assistance to Vietnam:

  • The Archaeological Survey of India is helping Vietnam in the preservation and conservation of some of the temples.
  • Since 1976, India has offered several Lines of Credit (LoCs) to Vietnam over the years on concessional terms and conditions.
  • Vietnam has been a large recipient of training programmes under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.


 Focus on Sub-Regionalism:

  • As ASEAN continues to focus on its centrality in the region, there will be shifts in smaller members of ASEAN due to China’s rise.
  • Vietnam is focussing on both sub-regionalism and regionalism as the core of its priorities.
  • India too looks at both sub-regionalism and regionalism as priority avenues to pursue its foreign policy.
  • The India-Vietnam Joint Statement of March 2018 reiterates the focus given to sub-regionalism.
  • Another area that is emerging is the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam growth triangle sub-regional cooperation.
  • India and Vietnam can jointly explore the potential for enhancing capacity building and providing technical assistance and training within this sub-regional grouping.


 Common Concerns:

  • An area of potential convergence for both Vietnam and India is health care.
  • Vietnam has highlighted the importance of linking economic growth to universal health care, whereby 80% population would be covered by health insurance.
  • India too, since 2011, has been focussing on the need to deliver accessible and affordable health insurance to weaker sections of society.
  • A potential area of convergence in the realm of health care through joint public-private partnership agreements can be explored by the two countries.
  • Today there is increasing security concerns in the areas of maritime security and adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.


Concerns / Challenges:

  • Vietnam opposed the “Quad” or quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Japan and Australia.
  • The proposed sale of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has taken a back seat as there has been no response from Hanoi.
  • The line of credit offered has yet to be operationalised for facilitating deeper defence cooperation.



Both countries are looking each other very seriously to enhance their partnership. While the ties have progressed under the Look East and Act East Policies, going forward they need to factor in pragmatism, helping relations to move forward