New Delhi: Eyeing a more robust relationship with strategically-important Vietnam, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit that country next week during which cooperation in textile, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and defence would be in focus.
The visit, August 24-26, comes just days after Vietnam renewed India`s lease of two oil blocks in South China Sea for another year, a move that could rile China.
During her visit, Swaraj will also chair a meeting of the heads of Indian Missions in the region besides inaugurating the 3rd Round-table of the ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks.
"India and Vietnam enjoy excellent political relations. We expect that the External Affairs Minister`s visit to Vietnam will pave the way for high-level exchange of visits between India and Vietnam during the course of the year," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters here.
India and Vietnam have a tradition of exchanging high- level visits. The last high level visit from Vietnam was by the Secretary General of Vietnamese Communist party last November.
Both the countries also have a fairly robust economic ties and the bilateral trade stands at USD 8 billion, of which Indian exports to the country is about USD 5.4 billion.
"We see prospects in the current situation in terms of enhancing our ties including in areas such as textile, pharmaceuticals and agricultural products," Akbaruddin said.
Asked if the issue of defence cooperation, which Vietnam is keen for, will be discussed, he said "in the world of diplomacy, some things are better left unsaid and defence cooperation is one of those".
Talking about India`s lease of oil blocks, Akbaruddin said Indian oil companies have felt, for techno-commercial reasons, that they would like to avail the opportunity to explore those oil blocks for a further period of one year.
He said that earlier the companies had found that it would be difficult to utilise those because of lack of availability of deep sea rigs there.
"However, they had extended for a two-year period (in 2012) and since then, the situation in terms availability of such rigs has improved. So Indian oil company has agreed to extend the option to explore for another year," the spokesperson said.
Referring to Swaraj`s schedule in Vietnam, he said she will hold meetings with her Vietnamese counterpart and call on the top leadership.
Swaraj will also inaugurate, along with her Vietnamese counterpart, the 3rd Round-table of the ASEAN-India Network of think-tanks. The think-tank from Indian side which coordinates this is RIS.
"Apart from these activities, the Minister has convened a meeting of Indian Heads of Missions in the region, that is in Southeast Asia and East Asia, on August 26. We expect that 19 India heads of the Mission from that region will be participating in the brainstorming session," Akbaruddin said.
The Mekong-Ganga project will also be discussed.