Hanoi: Underlining that Vietnam is a "very important pillar" in India's Act East Policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said his visit to the country, the first by an Indian premier in 15 years, was intended to boost the strategic ties and speed up bilateral engagements in key areas like defence, security and trade.
"Vietnamese Prime Minister (Nguyen Xuan) Phuc and I would also be discussing regional cooperation and stability and our multilateral cooperation," Modi told state-run Voice of Vietnam Radio network ahead of his two-day visit during which he will hold extensive talks with Vietnam's top leadership.
"The thrust of our multifaceted relationship is to work towards stability, maintenance of peace, economic growth and prosperity in our countries, Asia and beyond," he added.
Modi emphasised that India's Act East Policy is aimed at forging partnerships with its eastern neighbours to encompass security, strategic, political, counter-terrorism, and defence collaboration in addition to economic ties.
"It was crystallised to underscore the importance of East Asian neighbours of India and to make them a priority in our foreign policy engagement," he told the radio, adding Vietnam was an integral member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) and is a "very important pillar in our Act East Policy".
"My visit to Vietnam is a reinforcement of our friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation. The visit is intended to further boost our bilateral and multilateral engagement and cooperation in the fields of politics, economy, commerce, culture, human resource development, science and technology, space research, defence and security," he told the broadcaster.
Vietnam is the ASEAN Coordinator for India for 2015-18 and the two countries have expressed their strong commitment in strengthening partnership within the India-ASEAN and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation frameworks.
Underlining that trade was a vital aspect in bilateral ties, Modi noted the current trade stood at $7.83 billion, and pledged the two sides were committed to meet the target of $15 billion by 2020.
We would be deliberating on the thrust areas and new sectors for enhancing trade and the impetus required for enhanced investments. India has expressed keenness on increasing investments in Vietnam. Indian investments in Vietnam are currently at about $1.1 billion, and would be significantly enhanced upon implementation of large infrastructure projects such as Tata Power's Long Phu - II 1320 MW thermal power project with an estimated cost of $2.2 billion. Modi invited Vietnam to look at India as an attractive investment destination and urged Vietnamese entrepreneurs to invest in North East India which he said is a focus area for India's Act East Policy.
Modi said: "We are determined to encourage connectivity between North East India and ASEAN and I have announced a $1 billion Line of Credit for India-ASEAN physical and digital connectivity. Prime Minister Phuc and I would also be discussing regional cooperation and stability and our multilateral cooperation."
He said that the 'Strategic Partnership' established in 2007 has been "instrumental in cementing our security and defence relations and is today comprehensive in its reach, depth and engagement. However, our relationship is not limited to the 45 years of our modern existence but spans two millennia of contacts between our civilisations".
Next year, 2017, marks an important milestone in the bilateral ties for being the 45th year of India-Vietnam ties besides having completed ten years of strategic partnership.
Modi said both India and Vietnam shared traditionally close relations that had their roots in the freedom struggle led by founding fathers, Mahatma Gandhi and Ho Chi Minh. The late 1970s and 80s were a difficult period for Vietnam, and India was one of the few countries that stood by Vietnam in its time of need.
The advent of Buddhism from India to Vietnam and the remnants of the Hindu Cham civilisation stand testimony to this, he added.
He said both India and Vietnam have a young and dynamic demography with majority of the population below the age of 35 years.
"It is therefore important to secure our future, and the focus of our relations is rightly set towards fulfilling the aspirations of our youth," he said.
Modi concluded by invoking late Vietnamese prime minister Pham Van Dong who had said that the India-Vietnam relationship is "as pure as a cloudless sky". "We have a duty to our countries and peoples to add to this rich inheritance," he said.