Opening new possibilities in Southeast Asia, Vietnam on Tuesday asked India to play a greater role in ASEAN’s strategic and security affairs. Speaking at the Delhi Dialogue IX, a platform for discussion between ASEAN and India, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh said that India should support freedom of navigation in the South China Sea on the basis of international law and conventions.
“ASEAN supports India to play a greater role in the political and security domain, and create a regional rule-based region. We hope India will continue to partner our efforts for strategic security and freedom of navigation in South China Sea on the basis of international law and legal convention,” said the visiting leader.
The Vietnamese leader who is on a two-day visit to Delhi, is also the Foreign Minister of his country and held talks with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. His comments in support of greater role for India in Southeast Asia came even as tension is building up between India and China across the Sikkim sector.
“India and Vietnam share political and economic interests. As the future unfolds we have reason to be optimistic. ASEAN will benefit from India’s experience of resolving maritime issues in a peaceful manner,” he said indicating at the dispute with China in the South China Sea region.
In her speech, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that ties with ASEAN is at the centre of India’s Act East Policy. “We place ASEAN at heart of our ‘Act East Policy’ and centre of our dream of an Asian century. ASEAN and India are natural partners,” Ms. Swaraj said.
Pham Binh Minh’s comments are also important as they come a day after senior BJP leader Ram Madhav hinted at China’s growing domination of Southeast Asia and asked Vietnam to partner India in resisting “21st century version of neo-colonialism.” Addressing a conference on India-Vietnam ties organised at the Teen Murty Bhavan, Mr Madhav said, “It is important for us to make sure that the 21st century version of the same colonialism does not return to haunt us and succeed. Geopolitics in the Indian Ocean region makes the possibility of neo-colonialism a reality with countries trying to dominate others through money, market and through military,” he said.
Besides the Indian and Vietnamese ministers, the ministerial session was participated by Gen. (Dr.) V.K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs; Mr. U Kyaw Tint Swe, Union Minister, Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor, Myanmar and Mr. Hirubalan V P, Deputy Secretary-General for ASEAN Political-Security Community Department, ASEAN Secretariat.
The Delhi Dialogue IX marks the beginning of the celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of India-ASEAN diplomatic ties. The Vietnamese leader also indicated that a special India-ASEAN summit will be held in 2018.