The integration and the development of Asian highway as well as extending and interlinking the highway network in CLMV countries would help in developing trade and also better avenues and facilities to businessmen would help in growing complementarities. There are still lingering issues related to the banking and financial services. Also in defence field, the impending sale of Brahmos missile to Vietnam is seen an irritant.
Ms Quach Thi Hue | 26 October 2018 | Hanoi
India and Vietnam have nurtured their relationship through the Cold war years and also in the post-Cold war phase. The two countries have signed Strategic partnership agreement which was elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership when Prime Minister Modi visited the country in September 2016. While defence and security relationship has prospered; but the economic potential is yet to be explored. The two countries are one of the fastest growing economies in South Asia and Southeast Asia respectively. While the two countries do have a powerful and assertive neighbour across their border, the two countries want to develop meaningful ties in different spheres. Whenever there is talk with regard to India- Vietnam, China plays as the background shadow as the reason for their strategic ties. However, both India and Vietnam have over a period of time nurtured their relationships in such a way that there have been unimpeded synergies between political leadership and near identical stance on issues such as expansion of UNSC, peace and security in the Southeast Asian region as well as developing new complementarities with Japan and US while at the same time engaging important middle powers such as South Korea and Australia. While interaction between India and Vietnam does happen in multilateral forums such as ASEAN+1 summit level partnership, East Asia Summit meetings and other affiliated organizations of ASEAN such as ADMM plus and ASEAN Regional Forum.
Synergies between the two countries which had developed during the period of Nehru and Ho Chi Minh became further intense and noteworthy during the period of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the former Prime Minister had stated in his speech that there is a need to connect Delhi and Hanoi, and even proposed a Delhi to Hanoi highway and rail network. Even there have been expressions that BIMSTEC should be expanded to include the CLMV countries. While Myanmar and Thailand were the members of the BIMSTEC grouping but in terms of engaging Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos a new edifice was proposed in the year 2000 which was known as Mekong Ganga Cooperation. The two sub regional groupings did not gain necessary traction due to the lack of funds and also did not have the economic cooperation embedded into the structures. Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC), however, was the foundation for the genesis of Mekong Indian Economic Corridor (MIEC) which is seen as an important link to integrate the economies of CLMV countries while BIMSTEC was elevated as an important sub-regional grouping when the leaders of the BSIMECT countries were invited to an interaction and discussions with the BRCIS countries when India hosted the summit in Goa in 2016. For Vietnam any gaining of momentum to the two sub regional grouping would pave way for its access to the South Asian markets and also better economic cooperation with India. Vietnam does anticipate theta it would be invited to the BIMSTEC summit especially when Bhutan and Nepal were integrated as members in the sub-regional structure. Integrating CLMV into BIMSETC would help in creating a large market and a destination or cheap labour and integrated Regional Value Chain (RVC) fusing the two regions of South and Southeast Asia together. However, there are other ways to showcase the cultural and traditional legacy among the South Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
One of the important ideas is to integrate the two regions through Buddhist network and the e-visa for the monks and religious pilgrims would pave way for better understanding and studies related to literature, society, tradition and history. Secondly, India and Vietnam should explore synergies in educational cooperation as Vietnamese students are looking for destinations which can provide cheap and better English education. Thirdly, the mush promised direct flights between the two countries is yet to start after so many years. It seems that there has been a proposal for the direct flights by one of the low cost airlines of Vietnam but the problem has been allotting the preferred time slot at IGI for the flight operations to be economically viable. As already there has been an increase of 20 per cent of the Indian tourists going to Vietnam this year. Vietnam can also be proposed as a tourist and honeymoon destination for many couples as given the wide variety of tourist destinations such as Danang, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Cam Ranh Bay and also Ho Chi Minh city, the Indian tourist would have a lot to explore and also reconnect with the history. Within Vietnam there are sizeable number of Cham Hindus and Muslims who still observe identical rituals and practices as are being followed in India. However, there are still core concerns between the two countries related to trade and investment.
The two countries despite being the fastest growing economies have not yet reached the targeted bilateral trade of 20 billion dollars and still the bilateral trade is less than 10 billion dollars each year. Also with regard to investment the figure is anywhere between 2- 2.5 billion only and that too on a cumulative basis. The integration and the development of Asian highway as well as extending and interlinking the highway network in CLMV countries would help in developing trade and also better avenues and facilities to businessmen would help in growing complementarities. There are still lingering issues related to the banking and financial services. Also in defence field, the impending sale of Brahmos missile to Vietnam is seen an irritant. The mutual recognition agreement as well as more research cooperation if the field of agriculture, animal husbandry, sericulture and floriculture would help in bringing more benefits as well as involving Small and Medium enterprises in the cooperative framework. The issue of standardization and the quality control need to be addressed between the two countries. These are few of the irritants but one can always say with conviction that Indian Vietnam Strategic partnership does have a bright future.
(Ms Quach Thi Hue is Lecturer in Institute of International Relations, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Hanoi. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the opinion and editorial policy of National Defence.