October 11, 2011

Briefing by Official Spokesperson, and JS (South) on visit of Vietnamese President

October 11, 2011

Official Spokesperson (Shri Vishnu Prakash): A very good afternoon to all of you and welcome.

My colleague Joint Secretary (South) Mr. Arun Goel and I would like to brief you about the state visit of the President of Vietnam His Excellency Truong Tan Sang, who has arrived today at Bangalore. He would be in India till the 13th of October.

President Sang assumed office in August 2011 and this is his very first visit outside the ASEAN region. We look forward to rolling out a red carpet welcome for the President. He is accompanied by his spouse and a number of dignitaries including the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, Vice Ministers of Defence, Public Security, Foreign Affairs, Vice Minister of Information Technology, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, Vice Minister of Communications and Science and Technology, Rural Development, and a number of other senior officials as well as a large media component.

Briefly his programme. He is already in Bangalore, has met with the Governor who hosted a lunch in his honour. He has visited Infosys and would be emplaning for New Delhi Shortly.

Tomorrow there will be a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan followed by a call on him by the External Affairs Minister Shri S.M. Krishna. Thereafter he would be proceeding to Hyderabad House for delegation-level talks which would be followed by signing of agreements and press statements. It is expected that the Prime Minister of India and the President of Vietnam would be making statements to the media.

Later in the afternoon, the apex chambers of commerce CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM will be hosting a joint business luncheon. In the evening Leader of the Opposition Shrimati Sushma Swaraj will call on him. And later in the evening he meets with the President of India who also hosts a banquet in his honour.

On Thursday the 13th, he leaves for Mumbai where there would be a meeting organized by the Indo-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce, a meeting with the Governor of Maharashtra. And later he leaves Mumbai. That is broadly the programme.

India and Vietnam share a long tradition of close and friendly relations, anchored in the vision of the late Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh. Our ties are marked by mutual trust and a near identity of outlook on bilateral, regional and international issues, and matters of common interest. The relations are free of any divergences.

In 2007, both sides decided to elevate the relationship to the level of strategic partnership. I am happy to say that our mutually beneficial multifaceted bilateral cooperation, is also conducive to peace, stability and prosperity in our respective regions and beyond.

In recent years, high-level bilateral exchanges have been stepped up further which have helped nurture the ties. I would like to highlight some of the important visits, in the last couple of years which include the state visit of our President in November 2008. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had visited Hanoi in October 2010 for the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Summit. Raksha Mantri Mr. Anthony was in Hanoi in October last year. The Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam was in India last year. Speaker of Lok Sabha Shrimati Meira Kumar was in Hanoi in May this year. And last month the External Affairs Minister was in Hanoi for the 14th India-Vietnam Joint Commission Meeting on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation. We have also had the Second India Vietnam Strategic Dialogue last August.

We particularly appreciate Vietnam’s support in imparting content and depth to our Look East Policy. They have played a constructive role, a helpful role in forging closer linkages between India and ASEAN including the regional cooperation mechanisms, also during their ASEAN Chairmanship in 2010. We work closely in regional and international forums including ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, ASEM or the Asia Europe Meeting, besides of course UN and WTO. We greatly appreciate the steadfast support extended by Vietnam for our permanent membership of the expanded UN Security Council.

Vietnam is a fellow developing country with a dynamic and youthful population like we have in India, and is today the third largest country in ASEAN, growing rapidly at six to seven per cent per annum. Naturally our economic and commercial ties constitute one of the thrust areas of bilateral cooperation. I would like to underscore that during the last five years trade has grown at an average of 34 per cent per annum. This increased further by 39 per cent in the first six months of 2011 to touch 1.8 billion dollars. We expect it to close at something like 3.5 billion dollars in 2011, and would rise to seven billion dollars by 2015. We are already among the ten largest trading partners of Vietnam.

It is encouraging to note that consequent to the conclusion of the India-ASEAN FTA in Goods which Vietnam ratified on the 1st of June, 2010, their exports to India, in just a matter of months, have spurted by 136 per cent. This has made the trade much more balanced. It is still in India’s favour but the two-way trade has become much more balanced.

We are now in the process of establishing the India-Vietnam Business Forum which we are confident, would give a further boost to our trade ties. Recognizing the rapid economic development in India, recognizing our strengths in a variety of sectors including services, knowledge industries and the manufacturing sectors, Vietnam has been actively seeking Indian investments including in sectors like information technology, energy including renewable energy, chemicals and petrochemicals, fertilizers, iron and steel, health, education. By the way health and education are among two of the sectors where Vietnam respects the achievements of India and would like to see Indian companies and organisations play a much larger role in their country. Other areas include pharmaceuticals and medical components, food processing, auto components, etc.

Already close to quarter billion dollars have been invested by Indian companies in 54 ventures in Vietnam in a number of sectors such as sugar. Here, Nagarjuna Group has set up a venture. Tea that is Mcleod Russel; Coffee Company Limited of India has a unit. Recently Venkateshwara Hatcheries made an important investment for setting up a poultry feed unit, marble, steel furniture the Godrej Group is involved there, carbon black that is the first carbon black unit which has been set up by Philips Carbon. Tyres - JK Group is establishing a venture. IT sector - we have already about 60 franchised IT centres of NIIT, APTEC, and Tata Infotec, which are operating all over Vietnam and many more are in the pipeline, and also hydrocarbons where OVL and Essar Group have a presence.

India is also cooperating closely with Vietnam in skill enhancement and human resource development. I am happy to say that 100 ITEC fellowships, and thirty scholarships annually to Vietnamese students are on offer. EAM during his visit last month, inaugurated the Vietnam-India Advanced Technology Resource Centre at Hanoi which has been constructed with the help of C-DAC at a cost of two million dollars.

It has since been decided to establish a new Vietnam-India Centre for English language training at the Diplomatic Academy in Vietnam. We are also working together closely to expand ties in areas like energy, security and defence, science and technology, culture and so on. We had concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on defence cooperation in 2009.

Talking culture, we are planning to set up an Indian Cultural Centre in Hanoi soon. Vietnam and India also share civilisational, cultural and Buddhist links. And India has agreed to undertake restoration of Cham cultural monuments in MY SON, which is the ancient capital of the Champa Kingdom.

The full diplomatic relations were established in 1972 and the 40th anniversary falls next year which both sides have decided to celebrate as the Year of Friendship in each other’s countries and we also area planning to have a Festival of India in Vietnam.

Vietnamese are among nationals of 11 countries who can get visas on arrival in India. Of the 11 countries, interestingly seven are from the ASEAN region whose nationals can get visas on arrival.

In sum, we attach considerable importance to the state visit of the President of Vietnam. He would be holding in-depth and substantive discussions with the Indian dignitaries to qualitatively enhance our strategic partnership. Some agreements, as I mentioned, are also likely to be signed during the visit.

We will be happy to take your questions. (transcript follows)

New Delhi
October 11,2011

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