In this webinar, Dr Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy and Dr Pham Cao Cuong discussed the Vietnam-India comprehensive strategic partnership (CSP). They offered analyses on the key drivers of contemporary Vietnam – India relations, what the two countries have and have not achieved, and what challenges are lying ahead for bilateral ties, especially in the strategic domain.
VIETNAM STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Friday, 22 July 2022 – ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute hosted a webinar on “Vietnam – India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: Real Significance Or False Promise?” presented by Dr Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy and Dr Pham Cao Cuong. Dr Chaturvedy is Associate Professor at the School of Historical Studies and the School of International Relations of Nalanda University, India. Dr Pham Cao Cuong is Deputy Director General in charge of the Vietnam Institute for Indian and Southwest Asian Studies under the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences.
Dr Chaturvedy’s presentation focused on the importance of Vietnam to India’s strategic vision and the drivers behind maritime cooperation between the two countries. He noted the strong commitment of Vietnamese and Indian leaders, along with various institutional frameworks, that have been instrumental in facilitating bilateral ties. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vietnam in September 2016, Vietnam and India officially upgraded their “strategic partnership” to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. This resulted from Modi’s interest in building political connectivity with India’s partners, the two countries’ intent to add substance to their bilateral relationship, and India’s desire to contribute to the region’s stability, security and prosperity.
As a maritime nation highly dependent on the sea for its trade and economic development, India has intensified its engagement with maritime neighbours in recent years. The maritime dimension has become central to India’s Act East Policy amidst increasing security and development connectivity between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. This is reflected in the creation of the Indo-Pacific Division in the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI), and India’s maritime security dialogues with partner countries. Moreover, India is expected to play a more active role in promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea, given its growing status and expanding military capabilities.
Dr Chaturvedy noted that Vietnam is an important pillar in India’s Act East policy and a key partner of India’s IPOI, especially regarding maritime security. He outlined four main drivers of New Delhi’s growing maritime engagement with Hanoi: India’s aspiration to balance against an assertive China by bolstering Vietnam’s military capabilities; India’s recognition of the significant geostrategic and geoeconomic position of the South China Sea; India’s desire to maintain a presence to track potential developments in the maritime domain that could affect its national interests; and India’s need to project a forward maritime presence and naval partnership to deter potential threats.
In discussing the prospect and progress of the Vietnam – India CSP, Dr Charturvedy highlighted how India has steadily expanded defence cooperation with Vietnam under the five important pillars of Indian foreign policy, namely, Samman (dignity and honour), Samvad (greater engagement and dialogue), Samriddhi (shared prosperity), Suraksha (regional and global security) and Sanskriti evam Sabhyata (cultural and civilizational linkages).
Meanwhile, Dr Cuong’s presentation focused on the opportunities and challenges in the Vietnam-India CSP. First, the rise of China has shifted the regional order and raised tension over China’s territorial disputes with both Vietnam and India. Second, strategic competition between great powers has forced Vietnam and India to recalibrate their policies to adapt to the external environment. Third, a resurgent Russia has posed some concerns for India, especially in light of Moscow’s strengthening ties with Beijing and Pakistan.
Dr Cuong then discussed the key pillars of Vietnam – India CSP. Regarding political relations, there have been increasing high-level exchanges and virtual interactions between the two sides. In the realm of defence and security, the two countries have institutionalized regular consultation; training and capacity-building programs; cooperation in the defence industry, information technology, UN peacekeeping activities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. They also enhanced cooperation in combatting terrorism, maritime security and cybersecurity. Dr Cuong underlined the recent conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding on mutual logistics support and the Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030 as examples of strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.
Vietnam and India have also strengthened their partnership in multilateral forums such as ASEAN, Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, the UN Security Council, and India-led global initiatives. Regarding the trade aspect, Dr Cuong presented some remarkable figures but also noted the existing barriers, such as India’s protectionist measures against Vietnamese goods, similarities in the export structure of both sides, limited transport and infrastructure connectivity, and India’s modest investment in Vietnam.
At the end of his presentation, Dr Cuong provided some recommendations on how India and Vietnam can deepen their CSP. For example, the two countries should enhance dialogue and exchange, promote commercial cooperation, strengthen people-to-people exchange, deepen Mekong-Ganga cooperation, and promote participation in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
In the Q&A session, the two speakers answered questions on how Vietnam and India can further promote economic cooperation, the prospect of Vietnam-India oil and gas cooperation, how the Russian war in Ukraine affects Vietnam-India relations, the prospect of Vietnam’s acquisition of Brahmos missiles from India, and how the China factor impacts Vietnam-India relationship going forward.