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India, Vietnam to deepen defence, strategic ties

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Vietnam President Troung Tan Sang (L) with his wife Mai Thi Hanh and members of delegation comes out of plane upon arrival at New Delhi's airport on Tuesday. Photo: PTI Photo .

NEW DELHI (PTI): India and Vietnam will seek to deepen strategic and defence ties apart from inking a couple of pacts, including an extradition treaty, during the visit of Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang who arrived in the country Tuesday for a three-day tour.

Sang will hold comprehensive talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday, during which both leaders will discuss all international, regional and bilateral issues of "mutual interest", including the ways to strengthen ties in the area of oil and natural gas exploration.

Asserting that the relationship with Vietnam was not directed against China, official spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said the two leaders will discuss entire gamut of relationship which will include cooperation in hydercarbon sector also.

He was asked if India will talk about strengthening of ties in energy sector in the wake of recent objections by China. Irked by the Indian exploration projects on Vietnamese blocks in South China Sea, Chinese authorities have raised objections claiming that it was in their area.

The Chinese claim on the South China Sea has been rejected by both India and Vietnam, saying as per the UN the blocks belong to Vietnam. India has also made it clear that its state-owned firm would continue to explore in the resource-rich South China Sea.

"......all cooperation projects between Vietnam and other partners, including ONGC, in the field of oil and gas are located on the continental shelf within the exclusive economic zone and under the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Vietnam, entirely in conformity with international laws, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," Sang has said in an interview to PTI ahead of his visit here.

Significantly, the Vietnamese president comes here weeks after External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's visit to Hanoi last month that saw both the countries terming political, defence and security, trade and investment, credit and banking, energy including oil and gas exploration as some of the focus areas for cooperation.

The two countries will also ink a 'Friendship' pact to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations next year, Arun Goyal, Joint Secretary (South) in MEA, said while briefing the reporters on the Presidential visit.

India and Vietnam also have strategic defence ties with both countries involved in military exercises between all three wings of defence forces. India also provides training to police personnel of Vietnam.

Asked if India was ready to have a nuclear cooperation with Vietnam, officials said though Hanoi has expressed its interest to other countries on peaceful use of nuclear energy, there was no cooperation in this sector with India.

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