New Delhi: Against the backdrop of China becoming increasingly assertive in the South China Sea region, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will hold talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi later this week to focus on deepening economic and strategic ties between the two countries.
Krishna will co-chair the meeting of the 14th Joint Commission with Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi on Friday that will review an entire gamut of bilateral ties.
The talks will also set the stage for the visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to India next month.
The two ministers will undertake "a comprehensive review of Indo-Vietnam cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, culture, science, information technology, human resource development and agriculture", the External Affairs Ministry said here on Tuesday.
Krishna will inaugurate the Advance Resource Centre, a centre of excellence in the field of IT training, set up in Hanoi with Indian assistance. He will also visit the historic Ho Chi Minh City.
As the visit takes place barely weeks after the Chinese Navy "harassed" an Indian naval vessel, INS Airavat, off the Vietnamese coast, increased Chinese assertiveness in the region is also expected to figure in the discussions, said a well-placed source.
In July, when INS Airavat was travelling on a goodwill visit to Vietnam from port Nha Trang to Hai Phong, it was "buzzed" on an open radio asking it to leave Chinese waters.
The incident led India to come out in strong defence of the freedom of navigation in international waters.
"India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all," the External Affairs Ministry had said in a statement.
Against this backdrop, India and Vietnam are expected to discuss ways to add more substance to their defence and security ties. Besides holding joint combat exercises, India has been involved in training of Vietnamese defence personnel and has also supplied spares for Russian-made warships and missile boats.
The two sides will also discuss the East Asia Summit in November where the leaders of 18 countries, including the US, Russia, China and India, are expected to discuss an inclusive regional architecture.