February 2, 2024
HÀ NỘI — Indian Ambassador to Việt Nam Sandeep Arya lauded the robust and healthy progress of the Việt Nam-India comprehensive strategic partnership in 2023 and shared plans and orientations aimed at elevating the bilateral relations with Việt Nam in the time to come in an interview with the Vietnam News Agency prior to the advent of the Year of the Dragon.
How do you evaluate the relationship between India and Việt Nam in 2023? What are the notable highlights?
The India-Việt Nam comprehensive strategic partnership encompasses the entire spectrum of cooperation from political and official exchanges, promoting trade and investment, expanding business-to-business relations, deepening defence and security cooperation, advancing development initiatives, maintaining sound coordination in international forums, provincial-level engagements, progressing tourism and culture, and people-to-people ties.
In 2023, our Prime Ministers met in May and December during multilateral summits, and we had active exchanges covering ministerial visits in the field of defence, public security, external affairs, agriculture, law, and culture. Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Phan Thị Thắng and Additional Secretary of the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry Rajesh Agrawal co-chaired the 5th meeting of the Việt Nam-India Joint Sub-Commission on Trade in New Delhi in August, while Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn and his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar co-chaired the 18th meeting of the Việt Nam-India Joint Committee for Economic, Trade, Science and Technology Cooperation in Hà Nội in October. The meetings reviewed overall relations in October 2023 and generated ideas for further work in various fields.
Numerous activities in terms of exchange of business delegations, tourism promotion visits, defence training, exercises, ship visits, technical visits in economic areas, and cultural exchanges progressed the bilateral partnership steadily during 2023. We coordinated well in the United Nations and other forums and we are glad that Việt Nam participated at the level of the President and Foreign Minister in the two virtual meetings of the Voice of Global South Summit hosted by India in January and November 2023. Overall, the partnership saw healthy progress last year and has laid the framework for further joint work in 2024 and beyond.
Việt Nam-India comprehensive strategic partnership is considered a partnership for “people”. Can you share with us some specific programmes or plans to be taken to enhance people-to-people exchanges as well as to intensify solidarity and strategic trust to further advance bilateral relations?
I like your description of “people’s partnership” which captures enormous affinity, respect, and appreciation at the level of our peoples, be it Buddhist heritage, Yoga, tourism, culture or academic interest, or the steadfastness of India’s solidarity with Việt Nam over seven decades. The Archaeological Survey of India completed the restoration and conservation of the three tower groups of A, H and K at Mỹ Sơn World Cultural Heritage Site in Quảng Nam Province a year back, and the next phase of restoring three more sites in Việt Nam has been initiated.
Under the Mekong Ganga Cooperation initiative, we undertake ten community projects annually in Việt Nam that relate the benefits of government-level cooperation to local communities throughout Việt Nam. As many as 37 such facilities have already been completed, and nine more are in advanced stages of completion.
About 200 education and training scholarships in India per year expand the outreach of our cooperation to people across Việt Nam. More than ten provincial delegation exchanges took place last year. Several cultural troupes visited in both directions presenting arts and music in numerous localities. A bilateral conference on opportunities for cooperation in Hồ Chí Minh National Academy of Politics in December 2023 involved over 100 scholars to assess areas for enhancing bilateral cooperation in the future. Publicly reported data mentioned that Indian tourists as the ninth largest source of Việt Nam in 2023. Yoga, Buddhist, and scholarly linkages continued to prosper last year and engage people as real partners in the India-Việt Nam friendship.
Economic, trade and investment cooperation is a key pillar and also a strategic goal in the two countries’ relationship. How do you evaluate the potential for collaboration in this area in 2024 and the following years?
Economic, trade, and business relations are a high priority, taking into account strong national economic growth and development in both our countries. We are working at the level of the two governments, business associations and chambers, and promoting business interactions, participating in exhibitions and trade fairs, supporting province-level engagements to uplift economic relations between India and Việt Nam. In particular, an ongoing review of the 2009 ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement, which should be completed in 2025, will make the trade regime more diverse and facilitative.
Agriculture, fishery, engineering goods, electrical and electronic goods, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, mineral processing, energy (both hydrocarbon and renewable), infrastructure development, transport services, and tourism are some sectors that have enormous potential for further growth. We are discussing and hoping to progress and conclude ways of streamlining and increasing trade in these areas. Greater business-to-business engagement is another important part of our efforts to realise the full potential of bilateral trade and business relations.
Technology could make an enormous contribution to our efforts to expand economic relations. Digital technologies, telecommunication, start-up innovations, defence, and renewable energy are witnessing rapid developments in both countries and we are taking up sectoral exchanges in these areas. Banking, digital payments as well as improved direct shipping services are areas that has significant opportunities to expand bilateral economic relations ahead.
The year 2024 has started on a positive note with the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Trần Lưu Quang to India on 10-11 January 2024, his participation in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, a Việt Nam-India Business Forum, and meetings with Indian ministers and businesses. We plan more energetic and focused efforts in the economic domain, enhancing trade, business tie-ups, and technological cooperation initiatives which you will see unfold during the course of 2024.
Việt Nam aims to foster the development of cultural industries for economic growth. Can you share with us India’s experience on how to make cultural industries a key contributor to your country’s economy?
Tourism and culture are important dimensions that also nurture economic growth and progress. There are numerous similar efforts in India and Việt Nam in developing tourism tapping nationwide strengths, using the One Community One Product (OCOP) programme (the One District One Products (ODOP) initiative in India) to promote local products, and broadbasing connectivity and logistics beyond major cities.
Promoting handicrafts and local arts, including ethnic culture is an area of ongoing efforts that involves traditional heritage in the national growth journey. Active efforts to enhance the outreach of provinces to other countries also promote local and cultural participation in economic development. Cinema, television series, and music play an important role in linking culture with economic progress. Culture also serves as an important medium for connecting the diaspora and beyond to national economic endeavours.
What are your impressions on the culture and people of Việt Nam after more than a year in your role as Indian ambassador here? What’s the message you would like to send to Vietnamese people for the New Year?
I am deeply impressed by the strong similarities between the people, their traditions, customs, practices, and life in India and Việt Nam. This is represented in the centrality of family bonds, importance of beliefs, regard for ancestors, Buddhist thoughts, and emphasis among families on education and progress. The significance of traditional music, arts, and culture in life in both countries is also noteworthy. In daily life, I see the striking resemblance in terms of the vibrancy, dynamism, energy, and aspirations of the youth and entrepreneurship as well as the path to the progress of the people. I believe these similarities translate into deep respect, appreciation and affinity among the people of the two countries.
I convey my heartiest wishes for happiness, prosperity, and fulfilment to all the Vietnamese people on the occasion of Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday. I also wish for a stronger partnership between the two countries in the New Year, with the support of the generous and affable people of Việt Nam. — VNS