India and Vietnam has signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. This agreement will further strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
The two countries also signed three other agreements — to enhance aviation links, to jointly work in the area of energy efficiency and promotion of parliamentary cooperation.
The four pacts, aimed at boosting the relations, were signed in presence of Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan and visiting President of Vietnam’s National Assembly, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, after their talks on enhancing the ties.
Ngan, who is leading a Vietnamese parliamentary delegation, also met the Prime Minister who said the agreement on cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy “will further strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Vietnam”.
Modi welcomed increased parliamentary interaction between India and Vietnam, and called for instituting an exchange programme for young parliamentarians of the two countries.
The civil nuclear agreement with Vietnam, an influential East Asian nation, comes close on the heels of India signing a similar pact with Japan.
In 1992, India and Vietnam established extensive economic ties, including oil exploration, agriculture and manufacturing.
The relations between the two countries, especially defence ties, benefited extensively from India’s Look East policy.
Bilateral military cooperation includes sale of military equipment, sharing of intelligence, joint naval exercises and training in counterinsurgency and jungle warfare.
India also regularly deploys its warships for goodwill visits to Vietnamese seas.
Vietnam’s Importance for India:
First, Vietnam is an important element of India’s Act East Policy, which aims to re-invigorate its historical ties with countries in Southeast and East Asia.
Second, Vietnam is important for India from the connectivity angle. With the election of a civilian government in Myanmar, there are ample opportunities for closer connectivity between India and Vietnam via Myanmar and existing transit routes in Cambodia and Laos.
The trilateral India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will allow Indian goods to reach Southeast Asia with ease and vice versa. In the future, the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway could link up with already existing roads like the one linking Thailand with the Vietnamese port of Da Nang.
Third, India’s growing economy needs energy resources and Vietnam has rich hydrocarbon reserves. India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has been searching for oil in disputed waters off Vietnam, though China objected to this.
Though ONGC had been given two exploration blocks originally (Block 127 and Block 128 in 2006), it stopped exploring in Block 127 since it had been unable to find any worthwhile hydrocarbon deposits. However, recently, ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of the ONGC, received a one year extension to explore Block-128; this license will be valid until June 15, 2017.