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India, Vietnam agree to add 'new momentum' to ties

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NEW DELHI (PTI): China's military assertiveness in the region figured at a high-level meeting between India and Vietnam that focused on various regional issues and ways to further expanding bilateral cooperation between the two countries in diverse areas.

India and Vietnam agreed to add a new momentum to their economic and defence engagement in the virtual meeting of India-Vietnam Joint Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation which was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh.

China's aggressive behaviour including in eastern Ladakh and the South China Sea figured in the deliberations, people familiar with the talks said. However, there was no official word on it.

Last week, Vietnamese ambassador Pham Sanh Chau briefed Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla about the escalating tension in the South China Sea after China significantly ramped up its military presence in the region.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said: "Both sides reviewed the recent developments in India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and discussed the future trajectory of their wide-ranging engagement."

"They agreed to add new momentum to the economic and defence engagement between the two countries and to explore closer cooperation in emerging areas such as civil nuclear energy, space, marine sciences and new technologies," it said.

Both sides agreed to coordinate closely at multilateral forums, including at the UN Security Council based on their strong convergence of views on many global and regional issues, the MEA said, adding they also agreed to step up cooperation and coordination at important regional forums under the ASEAN framework.

It said the co-chairs exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, especially in the context of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

"Concluded the 17th India-Vietnam Joint Commission Meeting. Thank Deputy PM and FM @FMPhamBinhMinh for co-chairing. Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership keeps growing. Ensures peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," Jaishankar said in a tweet.

The MEA said Jaishankar expressed India's full support to Vietnam's chairmanship of ASEAN this year and appreciated the positive leadership provided by Vietnam to the bloc in a year when the world is faced with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"India and Vietnam also agreed to enhance their bilateral cooperation in line with India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and the ASEAN's Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region," the MEA said.

"India invited Vietnam to collaborate on one of the seven pillars of the IPOI," it added.

An agreement for cooperation between Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (SSIFS) and Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam was sealed on the margins of the Joint Commission Meeting.

A separate MoU was finalised between National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi and Scientific Research Institute of Sea and Islands, Hanoi.

In the meeting, Jaishankar underlined Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India) for enhancing resilience and human-centric globalisation as the basis for India's economic revival, the MEA said.

He also reaffirmed India's development and capacity building assistance to Vietnam through initiatives such as Quick Impact Projects (QIP).

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