NEW DELHI: India on Saturday sealed its strategic partnership with Vietnam by extending a $500 million credit line to shore up the defences of the South East Asian country even as it continues to be at odds with China over the South China Sea issue.
Both the countries also asked the stakeholders in the South China Sea imbroglio to refrain from threats or use of force.
The line of credit was announced during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Hanoi where the two countries decided to elevate their bilateral relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The Prime Minister has chosen to go to Vietnam on his way to China for G-20 summit, signaling a reliable relation with Hanoi. “Our decision to upgrade our Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership captures the intent and path of our future cooperation. It will provide a new direction, momentum and substance to our bilateral cooperation,” Modi said after talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi. “Our common efforts will also contribute to stability, security and prosperity in the region,” he said.
Many other countries have difference of opinion on the Chinese claims over the South China Sea, but Vietnam is one of the few countries with a potent military in the region.
New Delhi has embarked on a capacity building of Vietnamese forces by offering the line of credit for defence procurement, training for the armed forces personnel and a possible supply of military hardware in the future.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the PM’s visit, both the sides in reference to the 12th July 2016 Award of the Arbitral Tribunal, called on all contries to resolve disputes through peaceful means “without threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that could complicate or escalate disputes affecting peace and stability”.
The two countries also exhorted that a code of conduct needs to be finalised by all the parties involved as the sea lanes of communication passing through the South China Sea are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development.
Along with defence, the two countries signed a dozen agreements on a wide range of areas covering IT, space, double taxation and sharing white shipping information. Modi also announced a grant of $5 million for the establishment of a software park in the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang. An agreement on construction of offshore patrol boats was also signed. In the energy sector, the two countries also agreed to expedite the negotiation and conclusion of the new Inter-Governmental Framework Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.
“The range of agreements signed just a while ago point to the diversity and depth of our cooperation,” Modi added.