India and Vietnam on Monday agreed to deepen cooperation in defence and oil sectors among others as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral ties with the strategically-important country.
Putting into play the “Act East Policy” of the Narendra Modi government, Ms. Swaraj held meetings with her Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during which a number of key bilateral and regional issues were discussed.
Vietnam, which is involved in a tussle with China over the South China Sea, also gave a presentation to her on their point of view over this issue.
Giving details of Ms. Swaraj’s visit here, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said this was her third visit to an ASEAN country this month. She had earlier visited Myanmar and Singapore.
“She has said it is not enough to Look East but Act East. This is Act East in action. We began with the focus on neighbourhood and this has now moved on with focus on ASEAN. Our Prime Minister is going to Japan, so it further moves eastwards,” he said.
Asked if the issue of defence cooperation was discussed during her meetings, he said both countries reviewed the entire gamut of the ongoing defence cooperation as it is “an important area of our strategic partnership“.
The two sides also discussed Indian investments in Vietnam’s oil sector.
“External Affairs Minister mentioned that India is already engaged and is committed to continue cooperation with Vietnam and also is looking to expand its cooperation with Vietnam in this sector,” Mr. Akbaruddin said.
He added that both sides also discussed “briefly” the five oil blocks which Vietnam had offered to India during the visit of Secretary General of Vietnamese Communist party Nguyen Phu Trong, last November.
“OVL (ONGC Videsh Limited) is looking at them in terms of their feasibility and is in touch to see how to proceed further,” he said.
The visit to Vietnam comes just days after Hanoi renewed India’s lease of two oil blocks in South China Sea for another year, a move that could rile China.
China and Vietnam have an acrimonious relationship due to their standoff over the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons.
Due to its estranged ties with China, Vietnam is looking at India for a deeper defence cooperation which includes possible procurement of weaponry besides training especially that of the Navy.