India, Vietnam for peaceful South China Sea, $15 bn trade

Vikas Datta   |  Hanoi


India and Vietnam Monday called for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and set a target of achieving $15 billion bilateral trade by 2020 with a focus on tourism, garments and textiles, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

Signalling their intent to move closer in various spheres, the two countries also signed seven agreements, including one for direct flights between their capitals, for scouting for oil, and an extended line of credit for purchase of military equipment.

The seven agreements were signed in the presence of visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang.

A joint communique said the two leaders agreed to strengthen and deepen bilateral cooperation on the basis of the strategic partnership.

The focus would be on political, defence and security cooperation, economic cooperation, science and technology, culture and people-to-people links, technical cooperation and multilateral and regional cooperation.

The leaders agreed that military and security cooperation was an important pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

They expressed satisfaction with the ongoing cooperation in this field.

They noted that the signing of the MoU for a Line of Credit of $100 million for defence procurement extended by India to Vietnam would open new avenues for cooperation.

India and Vietnam also reiterated their "desire and determination to work together to maintain peace, stability, growth and prosperity in Asia".

They agreed that freedom of navigation in the East Sea/South China Sea should not be impeded, and called the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law.

The two countries welcomed the collective commitment of the concerned parties to abide by and implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to work towards the adoption of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus.

They called for cooperation in ensuring security of sea lanes, maritime security, combating piracy and conducting search and rescue operations.

The seven agreements included an air services agreement between Jet Airways and Air Vietnam while OVL, the overseas arm of oil major ONGC, and Petro Vietnam inked an agreement on exploring two additional blocks off Vietnam.

The other agreements were on agriculture cooperation, animal health, customs cooperation, and on youth affairs and skill development.

After the inking of the agreement, Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal said the air services were going "to be very feasible, it is going to be very profitable".

He said the direct flights would start Nov 5, and "booking has already started".

A Boeing 737-800 will be pressed into service, said Goyal, who expressed full confidence that it would be a success.

Lauding Goyal's venture, the Vietnamese president termed him a "giant bridge" between the two countries.

President Mukherjee is on a four-day state visit to Vietnam that began Sunday. - IANS