India and Vietnam signed seven agreements after PM Modi met his counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung. The two also held talks on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, and called for ‘freedom of navigation and commerce, and peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in the region’.
Exploration of oil & gas blocks
India’s OVL (ONGC Videsh Ltd.) and PetroVietnam signed an agreement to explore two additional oil and gas blocks in the hydrocarbon rich South China Sea. Along with this, they also signed an agreement for extension of contract for another project in the South China Sea. Including the two blocks recently agreed upon, India is now involved in five exploration projects with Vietnam. The Vietnamese also welcomed Indian oil and gas companies to explore new opportunities in midstream and downstream activities in the oil and gas sector in Vietnam.
Bilateral trade between the two countries has steadily improved, especially after the implementation of the India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement. The conclusion of the India-ASEAN Trade in Services and Investment Agreements is expected to provide a further impetus to trade. Both countries also agreed to enhance the bilateral trade targets to US $15 billion by 2020.
India is committed to the modernisation of Vietnamese defence and security forces. India’s already substantial training programme for the Vietnamese forces will be expanded. Also joint exercises will be conducted and the countries will cooperate in the arena of defence equipment.
Cooperation in other areas
Both nations also agreed to increase cooperation in crucial areas of defence, security, trade and counter-terrorism. They signed five pacts providing for cooperation in sectors like ‘education, culture and broadcasting, conservation and restoration of the world heritage site of My Son in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province and the Nalanda university project.’
India also asked Vietnam to provide expeditious clearances to the Tata Group for its thermal power project inVietnam which is scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Vietnam sought India’s help for skill development in the IT sector, and also asked India to increase seats for Vietnamese students in Indian educational institutions or consider setting up a university in Vietnam. India offered Vietnam seats in the Petroleum university to train people for better management of the oil and gas exploration projects.
Chine has been objecting to India’s oil exploration projects in the disputed waters of South China sea. Hours after India signed the pact with Vietnam, China warned that it would ‘oppose any exploration activity in the South China Sea if it undermined its sovereignty and interests’.