India and Vietnam, with historical roots in the common struggle for liberation from colonial rule and the national struggle for independence, share traditionally close and cordial bilateral relations. Mahatma Gandhi and Ho Chi Minh, regarded as the Father of Nation in India and Vietnam respectively, led people in their heroic struggle against colonialism in the two countries.
Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the first visitors to Vietnam after its victory against the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. President Ho Chi Minh visited India in February 1958. President Rajendra Prasad visited Vietnam in 1959. Vietnam is an important regional partner in South East Asia.
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.
India was the Chairman of the International Commission for Supervision and Control (ICSC), which was formed pursuant to the Geneva Accord of 1954 to facilitate the peace process in Vietnam.
India had established the Consul General’s office in Hanoi as early as 1956. India initially maintained Consulate-level relations with the then North and South Vietnams and later established full diplomatic relations with unified Vietnam on 7 January 1972.
India granted the “Most favoured nation” status to Vietnam in 1975 and both nations signed a bilateral trade agreement in 1978 and the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) on 8 March 1997.
The relationship was further strengthened when India, in the early 1990s, initiated its “Look East Policy” with the specific objective of economic integration and political cooperation with Southeast Asia and East Asia.
Relations between the two countries were elevated to the level of ‘Strategic Partnership’ during the visit of Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to India in July 2007. In 2016, during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Vietnam, bilateral relations were further elevated to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.
In the context of COVID-related travel limitations, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc held the first ever India-Vietnam Virtual Summit on 21 December 2020, during which they adopted a historic “Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People” to guide the future development of bilateral relations. On the sidelines of the Virtual Summit, the two Foreign Ministers also signed a Plan of Action for the period 2021-23 to implement the Joint Vision.
India and Vietnam are members of the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation, created to develop to enhance close ties between India and nations of Southeast Asia.
Vietnam has supported India’s bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and join the Indo-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
Areas of Cooperation
India and Vietnam agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership “in line with India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region.”
Institutionalized Mechanisms for Bilateral Exchanges
The Joint Commission Meeting at the Foreign Ministers’ level and Foreign Office Consultations (FOCs) and Strategic Dialogue at Secretary level provide the larger framework for bilateral cooperation in various areas.
There is an annual Security Dialogue at Defence Secretary Level and a Joint Committee on Science and Technology that meets periodically.
The India-Vietnam Joint Working Group on Educational Exchange was set up in 2012.
The India-Vietnam Joint Sub-Commission on Trade was set up in 2013.
Following the signing of the MoU on Information Technology in September 2016, a Joint Working Group on IT has been set up and the first meeting was held in June (2017).
Trade and economic relations for mutual benefit, which have significantly improved over the years particularly after the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement was signed.
India realises that Vietnam is a potential regional power in South East Asia with great political stability and substantial economic growth.
Even more impressive is its growth which is driven by a record trade surplus, despite the collapse in global trade. The growing middle class also assures a stable market.
Vietnam is also keen for India to expand its presence in oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea and has firmly maintained that the areas fall well within Vietnam’s economic zone.
India is investing in development and capacity assistance for Vietnam through quick impact projects (QIP), proposals in the area of water resource management in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and digital connectivity.
Five key sectors were identified as thrust areas are: Garment and Textiles, Pharmaceuticals, Agrocommodities, Leather and Footwear, and Engineering.
Major export commodities from India are machinery and equipment, seafood, pharmaceuticals, cottons of all kinds, automobiles, textiles etc.
Main items of imports from Vietnam are mobile phones and accessories , computers and electronics hardware, machinery and equipment, etc.
During the Financial Year (FY) April 2020 – March 2021, bilateral trade between India and Vietnam reached USD 11.12 billion.
Indian exports to Vietnam amounting to USD 4.99 billion and Indian imports from Vietnam at USD 6.12 billion.
Defence Cooperation has emerged as a significant pillar of India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam. After the signing of the MoU on Defence Cooperation by the two Defence Ministers in November 2009, the relations have grown from strength to strength. India is currently offering 50 Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) slots every year to Vietnamese defence personnel.
Indian ships regularly make friendly port calls to Vietnam. For the first time, a Vietnamese Ship participated in the International Fleet Review at Vishakhapatnam, India, in February 2016.
India and Vietnam held their first-ever joint naval exercises in the South China Sea on 21 May 2018.
While Vietnam is interested in modernising its armed forces, India is interested in developing defence capabilities of its South-East Asian partners sufficiently to maintain peace in the strategic region.
Vietnam is interested in India’s Akash surface-to-air systems and Dhruv advanced light helicopters and Brahmos missiles.
Apart from this, the defence relations include capacity building, dealing with common security concerns, training of personnel, and cooperation in defence R&D.
Indian Naval Ship INS Kiltan undertook a visit to Ho Chi Minh City in 2020 to deliver flood relief materials for the people of Central Vietnam (Mission Sagar III).
It also participated in the PASSEX Exercise with the Vietnam People’s Navy.
In June 2022, Indian Defence Minister visited Vietnam, where he signed some Defence Agreements, which will significantly enhance the scope and scale of existing defence cooperation.
India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030:
Both the Defence Ministers signed the ‘Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030’ to bolster bilateral defence cooperation.
Defence Line of Credit:
The two ministers agreed on the finalisation of the USD 500 million Defence Line of Credit extended to Vietnam with implementation of the projects under it adding substantially to Vietnam’s defence capabilities and furthering the government’s vision of ‘Make in India, Make for the World.’
Mutual Logistics Support:
Both inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Mutual Logistics Support.
This is a major step towards simplifying procedures for mutually beneficial logistic support and is the first such major agreement which Vietnam has signed with any country.
Simulators and a Monetary Grant:
India will gift two simulators and a monetary grant towards setting up of Language and IT (Information Technology) Lab at the Air Force Officers Training School for capacity building of the Vietnamese Armed Forces.
China factor also weighs heavily in the respective strategic calculus of India and Vietnam.
Both countries had fought wars with China and both have border problems with that country. China aggressively continues to encroach in the territories of the two countries.
Hence, it is natural for both the countries to come closer with a view to restrain China from its aggressive actions.
Science and Technology
Science and Technology is an important area of our cooperation. The MoUs/Agreements signed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Vietnam in the year 2016 on Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, IT Cooperation, Cyber Security and the Framework Agreement signed in December 2016 on Uses of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes show the importance our two countries attach to this area.
In March 2018, both countries exchanged agreements on agricultural research and an MoU on Cooperation between the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) and the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VINATOM).
Assistance and Capacity Building
Lines of Credit: Since 1976, India has offered several Lines of Credit (LoCs) to Vietnam over the years on concessional terms and conditions.
Scholarships: Vietnam has been a large recipient of training programmes under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.
ARC-ICT: A US$ 2 million Advanced Resource Centre in Information and Communications Technology (ARCICT) was inaugurated by External Affairs Minister in Hanoi in Sept. 2011.
Indira Gandhi Hi-Tech Crime Laboratory: This is a Rs. 2 crore grant assistance project to establish a Hi-Tech Forensic Laboratory in Ha Noi. The MoU on this project was signed in November 2013.
Buddhist Festival: On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Strategic Partnership, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha in collaboration with the Vietnam India Friendship Association (VIFA) and the Embassy of India, in Hanoi, organized a major four-day “Buddhist Festival – Days of India” in Tay Thien, Tam Dao District, Vinh Phuc Province.
Indian Community: Estimated population of Indians living in Vietnam is 2900, mostly in HCMC. The Indian Business Chamber (INCHAM) is an organisation of Indians living in Vietnam, primarily to promote trade and business interactions. The Indian community is vibrant, law-abiding, well-educated and prosperous. A vast majority of them are professionals working in Indian and multinational companies.
The year 2019 was celebrated as the ASEAN-India Year of Tourism. Both countries have facilitated a simplified visa regime to promote bilateral tourism.
The Embassy of India organised various events to celebrate Mahatma@150 in 2018-19. These include Jaipur artificial limb fitment camps, which were organised in four provinces of Vietnam, benefitting 1000 people, under the ‘India for Humanity’ initiative of the Government of India.
In 2016, the first time in 15 years, an Indian Prime Minister visited Vietnam signaling India is no longer hesitant to expand its presence in China’s periphery.
India’s foreign policy envisages India to play an anchor for peace, prosperity and stability in Asia and Africa, deepening ties with Vietnam will only strengthen this narrative.
As India and Vietnam geographically lie at the heart of the emerging Indo-Pacific construct, both would play a major role in this strategic space which is becoming a core theatre for competition for power and influence amongst the major powers.
The strategic partnership under the broad India-Vietnam cooperation framework would be critical towards building the vision laid out under India’s ‘Act East’ Policy, which looks to expand engagement that is mutually positive and which ensures inclusive growth for all in the region.
Strengthening ties with Vietnam will eventually lead a step towards the realisation of SAGAR (Security and Growth all in the region) initiative as hailed by the Indian PM.
India and Vietnam both can mutually benefit each other in the arena of Blue Economy and ocean security.