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Vietnam backs India for APEC membership

By Amit Baruah

HANOI, NOV. 7. Vietnam, an enthusiastic supporter of India's candidature in the United Nations Security Council, has now openly backed its membership of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping which holds its annual summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on November 15-16.

As the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, and his Vietnamese counterpart, Mr. Nguyen Dy Nien, inaugurated the 10th session of the India-Vietnam Joint Commission meeting, the State- run Vietnam News made it apparent that Hanoi was open and consistent in its support for New Delhi.

``Nien hailed India's efforts to strengthen ties with regional countries and upgrade the role of the Non-Aligned Movement... these efforts had helped to lift India's standing on the world stage, Nien said which would receive a further boost if India's U.N. and APEC ambitions are realised,'' the paper reported.

India has been trying to garner support for entering the grouping. Clearly, with one of the largest economies - the APEC can hardly be complete without India's entry.

Speaking to reporters today, Mr. Singh said India-Vietnam relations were given a certain direction and shape in the early 1950s by ``two great leaders'' - Ho Chi Minh and Jawaharlal Nehru. ``But we are now in the 21st century and it will not suffice for us to think only of the past and not of the challenges both countries face as the new world impinges on politics... this is the real dimension of the challenge to give direction to India-Vietnam relations... and that is why I am here.''

In his opening statement at the Joint Commission meeting, the Vietnamese Minister said both the countries should make greater efforts to ``explore our vast potential for cooperation to strengthen and further improve the efficiency of economic cooperation commensurate with our very good and close political relations''.

The two-way trade was a measly $115.49 million in 1999-2000 while Hanoi's trade with Beijing is pegged at $2 billion annually. The trade balance, too, is heavily in India's favour; a situation Vietnam would like to rectify.

Mr. Nien said India should formulate a policy to facilitate increased and diversified imports. Apart from looking at traditional goods such as rice, pepper, footwear and silk yarn, India should consider giving tax reduction or exemption for Vietnamese handicrafts.

The two countries needed to further boost trade promotion activities, and increase the exchange of business delegations and participation in trade fairs and exhibitions. India should facilitate the early establishment of Vietnam's Trade Centre in New Delhi as agreed upon earlier.

Appreciating India's decision to make available a renewable credit line for import of machinery and equipment for food processing projects, transport and metallurgy, Mr. Nien said there was need to expedite the disbursement of two new loans.

On cooperation in education and training, he said: ``We are delighted at the fruitful outcome of our bilateral cooperation and wish to receive more assistance from the Indian Government in the training of our people in those pioneering industries such as information technology, new materials, renewable energy, and use of nuclear power for peaceful and development purposes.''

In his remarks, Mr. Singh said Mr. Nien had ably charted out the kind of activity the countries needed to be engaged in.

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