'India wants to strengthen defence, security ties with Vietnam'



On Board Special Aircraft: India looks forward to further improving defence and security ties with Vietnam, an important component of the country's Look East Policy, Vice President Hamid Ansari said on Monday.

"We have had close cooperation with each other on defence and security and India has also been training some of the military personnel. We will render all possible assistance including for capacity building in hitech and other programmes," Ansari, who is on a four-day state visit to Vietnam, told journalists accompanying him.

The country wants to further strengthen defence and security ties with Vietnam, he said. Relations between the two countries were further strengthened around five years back when they struck a strategic partnership, he said.

However, Ansari expressed concern over trade relations between the two countries not being upto the expected levels.

"Trade and investment is the target area. Present performance is not very high and needs to be developed," Ansari said, adding bilateral trade and other investments should be developed within the ASEAN framework.

The two countries have set a target of USD 7 billion by 2015 but have managed only around USD 4 billion till date.

He emphasised that investment and security are the issues on which India and Vietnam should further strengthen ties.

Asked about the line of credit extended to Vietnam by India, Ansari said it is under government examination.

"Some problems have been identified and these are being addressed," he said.

On the issue of oil exploration in the South China Sea, Ansari said ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) was given two blocks of which one was found to be dry. "This is an ongoing process," he said.

Vietnam has spoken out openly against China flexing its muscle in the South China Sea. China had opposed a deal signed by the OVL and Vietnam in October last year in the to explore the oil and gas block in the disputed waters in the South China Sea, sparking a diplomatic row between Beijing and New Delhi.

Ansari said the two nations also have cultural relations and Archaeological Survey of India is working on projects in Vietnam.

Describing India's friendship with Vietnam as one that dates back to the pre-independence era, Ansari said he is visiting a "very friendly country".

"By undertaking this visit, I am honouring a traditional friendship," Ansari said, adding that he expects a "happy, productive and forward looking relationship" with Vietnam.

India and Vietnam celebrated 2012 as the year of friendship between the two nations.

Ansari will attend the closing ceremony of the programmes held to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam.

"The idea is to continue with the exchange of visits and to also reinforce the cooperation," Ansari said.

India considers Vietnam as an important part of its Look East Policy.

India's North-Eastern states are likely to benefit more than other states from India's Look East policy and further strengthening of ties with countries like Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, due to their proximity to this region, he said.

PTI