Viet Nam as one of the important pillars in India’s Act East policy

Vietnam and India flags together textile cloth, fabric texture

The growing trajectory of the India-Viet Nam defence cooperation has continued through the Strategic Partnership established in 2007 which was elevated to the level of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in September 2016. Defence and security cooperation between India and Viet Nam has emerged as a key component under the CSP, with both sides emphasising on the need to further enhance existing areas of collaboration. Defence cooperation has been one of the most significant elements in the fast-expanding bilateral ties. Both countries have stakes in the Indo-Pacific and are aiming to explore the potential for further cooperation in the region.

India’s Act East Policy aims to strengthen ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. Viet Nam plays a crucial role as an important partner in this policy, and the bilateral defence cooperation between India and Viet Nam serves as a cornerstone of this strategic relationship.

Describing Viet Nam as an important partner to help India realise it’s Indo-Pacific vision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020 said cooperation between the two countries can contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the region. At a virtual summit with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Modi said India looks at its ties with Viet Nam from a long-term, strategic perspective.

“Viet Nam is an important pillar of India’s Act East policy,” Modi said in his opening remarks, adding the scope of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries has expanded significantly. “Peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region is our common aim. Our cooperation can make an important contribution in maintaining peace and stability in the region,” said Modi.

The India-Viet Nam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity, and People announced in December 2020 is significant as it serves as the cornerstone for a new era in the bilateral defence partnership. In terms of defence and security cooperation, key agreements include implementing arrangements on defence industry cooperation, increased frequency/regular high-level and institutionalised exchanges aimed at enhancing the security partnership to help maintain and promote stability in the Indo-Pacific.

In recent times, political contacts have strengthened as reflected in several high-level visits by leaders from both sides. Trade and economic linkages continue to grow. India’s thrust under the ‘Look East’ policy combined with Viet Nam’s growing engagement within the region and with India has paid rich dividends. Viet Nam is an important regional partner in South East Asia. India and Viet Nam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) besides UN and WTO.

From a meagre US$ 200 million in the year 2000, bilateral trade between India and Viet Nam has seen steady growth over the years. According to Vietnam statistics, Bilateral trade between Vietnam and India exceeded US$ 15 billion for the first time in 2022, reaching the target set by the leaders of the two countries and bringing India to be the one of eight leading trading partners of Vietnam. The two countries agreed that there is vast untapped potential in bilateral trade and agreed to continue exploring ways for enhancing balanced and sustainable trade between the two countries.

Indian President Droupadi Murmu in June 2023 welcomed Vietnamese Defence Minister General Phan Van Giang, who called on Murmu at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. She said Viet Nam is an important pillar of India’s Act East policy and a “key partner of our Indo-Pacific Vision”, according to a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement.

The Defence Minister of Viet Nam also visited DRDO headquarters and discussed ways to enhance defence industrial capabilities by enhancing cooperation in defence research and joint production. The regular military exchanges and high-level visits between India and Viet Nam reflects the deepening in the partnership.  Viet Nam’s importance as a partner in India’s Act East Policy and in the broader Indo-Pacific region was reiterated throughout the discussions. The engagement between the two nations highlights Viet Nam’s strategic position and its role in maintaining regional stability and security.

Defence cooperation between India and Viet Nam is multi-faceted in its scope and intensity that includes wide-ranging contacts between the services, through closer interaction and regular defence dialogues, training and exercises, collaboration in capacity building and Navy and Coast Guard ship visits.

On 8 June 2022, during the visit of Minister Singh to Viet Nam, both sides signed the ‘Joint Vision Statement on India-Viet Nam Defence Partnership towards 2030’. A MoU on Mutual Logistics Support was also signed during that visit.

India-Viet Nam relations are based on the long historical and cultural linkages, with defence cooperation becoming a key pillar of the emerging partnership. In the post-Cold War period, the new security environment which led to India’s growing engagement with ASEAN also enabled India and Viet Nam to strengthen their bilateral defence cooperation. It is fair to state that as both nations began to deepen their strategic partnership, defence has emerged as a major area of cooperation. This relation is based on the commonality of principles, and is maturing in the context of the emerging security challenges of the 21st century.

Further, the Joint Vision Statement on Defence Partnership signed in 2022 has significantly enhanced the scale and scope of the bilateral defence cooperation. Viet Nam is a key pillar in India’s Act East policy and an important partner in its Indo-Pacific vision


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