Reporter: In 45 years from the establishment of the diplomatic ties (January 7th 1972 – January 7th 2017), the relations between Vietnam and India have continuously developed in all aspects. How do you evaluate the relations between the two countries in these years?
Mr. Parvathaneni Harish: The civilizational relationship between India and Vietnam spans over 2000 years and the advent of Buddhism from India to Vietnam and the remnants of the Hindu Champa civilization in Vietnam stand testimony to this fact.
Our monks, traders and peoples interacted over centuries and intense cultural exchanges have left their imprint on our daily lives and activities.
During our respective freedom struggles led by Mahatma Gandhi and President Ho Chi Minh, the founding fathers of our nations were in close contact establioshing trust and friendship; a valued relationship that our successive generations of leaders have nurtured and built upon during Vietnam’s phase of national reunification and national reconstruction.
In 2017 the two countries are celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 10th Anniversary of our Strategic Partnership.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Vietnam in September 2016, he and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc took the historic step to elevate the relationship to that of ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’, a clear indication of the importance the two countries place on their relationship of long standing traditional friendship.
The recent years have witnessed a number of visits of leaders from both the sides, including at the highest political levels. We enjoy good relations between political parties and legislative institutions of both sides and have established bilateral cooperation mechanisms.
The relations between the two countries are marked by strong trust, mutual understanding and convergence of views on various international issues and the regional security situation in Asia.
Our leaders have emphasized that enhancing bilateral economic engagement is a strategic objective. The bilateral trade is growing at a healthy pace and is currently around USD8 billion; our leaders have set a trade target of USD15 billion by 2020, and both sides are committed to achieving it. India is keen on increasing its investments in Vietnam, which is currently over USD1.2 billion, and would be tripling in a few years once some large infrastructure investments reach fruition.
We would similarly like to invite Vietnamese business and industry to look at India as an attractive investment destination. India is a key partner of Vietnam in defense and security cooperation, human resource development and manpower training, science and technology cooperation. We are enhancing cultural cooperation and outreach and increasing people-to-people contacts.
The relationship between our leaderships, peoples, governments, legislatures and political parties is very strong and we remain committed to take it to greater heights.
Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Parvathaneni Harish. (Photo: Internet)Reporter: In recent years, although the economic and trading ties have been considered as one of the strategic goals between Vietnam and India, they are not in the same level with the political ties and the potentials of the two countries. What do you think are the reasons for this situation and what can we do to boost the bilateral economic and trading ties between Vietnam and India?
Mr. Parvathaneni Harish: Though India and Vietnam share excellent political ties, the economic relations have not kept pace. In order to realize the trade target of USD15 billion by 2020 set by our leaders, we need to actively collaborate to boost trade.
Certain products and commodities have been identified such as Textiles, pharmaceuticals, auto components, machinery and equipment etc and numerous trade promotion activities have been planned in these fields.
We are actively engaging the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and trade bodies of both the countries with the objective to enhance exchange of business delegations and boost trade.
Our trade and investment flows sometimes also involve third countries complicating trade and investment data. Such technical details need to be sorted out and our agencies are coordinating to resolve the discrepancy and exchange data on FTA utilization.
However, tariff and non tariff barriers remain impediments to development of bilateral trade and they are being addressed by both sides. India and Vietnam have agreed to facilitate trade flows between the two countries by minimizing the application of trade barriers, and step by step removal/reduction of trade tariffs in accordance with the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and India.
Trade will receive a boost in 2018 when tariffs for many commodities become zero.
Reporter: 2016 laid an important milestone in the relations between Vietnam and India when leaders of the two countries decided to upgrade the Strategic Partnership to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. As the Ambassador of India to Vietnam, in your working term, what will you do to boost the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and India?
Mr. Parvathaneni Harish: The elevation of the Strategic Partnership between the two countries to that of ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ is a clear indication of the goodwill, trust and importance the two countries place on their relationship.
It is also an acknowledgment of the existing strong bilateral defense and security ties and our mutual desire to contribute to regional peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity.
The partnership covers a wide variety of topics such as cooperation in development, political exchanges, defense and security, human resource development, commercial and economic ties, cultural exchanges and scholarships and Official Development Assistance.
The partnership between the two countries is extremely vibrant and dynamic, however, to fully develop the potential of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership a lot of ground has to be covered.
The USD15 billion target has to be achieved by 2020, which can be only be realized by having greater trade and commerce level exchanges both at the industry and governmental levels to iron out the impediments to trade.
The priority areas as identified by our leaders need to be focused on. Defense is an important component of our relationship and therefore the Indian Prime Minister during his visit to Vietnam in 2016 announced a new Defence Line of Credit for Vietnam of USD500 million for facilitating deeper defense industry cooperation. The two countries would benefit immensely by having direct flight and shipping connectivity.
It is encouraging that in 2017 Vietjet would be starting direct flights to India. The banking and financial sector linkages are being enhanced for facilitating more intensive economic engagement. 2016 witnessed the opening of a branch of Bank of India in Ho Chi Minh City and we are happy that this week Bank of India also received its license for international foreign exchange transactions which will assist Indian business and industry in Vietnam.
India has an active portfolio of human resource development and capacity building in Vietnam in IT, English language training, entrepreneurship development, high-performance computing and other areas of Science and Technology.
The two countries are also collaborating in Peaceful uses of Nuclear Technology, and a Framework Agreement on this was signed during the recent visit of Chairperson of National Assembly, Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan to India in December, 2016. We are also collaborating on the Exploration of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes and we signed a Framework Agreement for the same during the visit of Prime Minister Modi last year.
We need to further enhance our people to people contact by promoting tourism and culture. There is a need for more cultural exchanges.
The Indian Embassy gives around 250 scholarships annually to Vietnamese citizens especially under various schemes. Apart from this we also undertake numerous cultural outreach activities, such as organizing music and dance programs, yoga workshops, film festivals etc. It is only with such a multi pronged approach that we can actualize the Strategic Partnership between the two countries and harness the true potential for greatness that the two countries possess in abundance.
Reporter: In 2017, we are celebrating the 45th anniversary of the diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the Strategic Partnership (2007 – 2017). What activities does the Embassy of India organize to celebrate these anniversaries?
Mr. Parvathaneni Harish: The year 2017 is a landmark year in the history of bilateral relations between the two countries. We would be celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 10th Anniversary of our Strategic Partnership; this serves as an excellent opportunity to enhance our socio-cultural relations.
We have numerous programs lined up in the field of socio-cultural exchanges. We are planning to conduct an international conference to mark these milestones in March in collaboration with the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics and with the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and the Cham Museum in Danang later this year.
There are plans to have popular events such as Indian Film Festivals, Food Festivals and organizing the International Day for Yoga on a grand scale.
The newly opened Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) in Hanoi would enable the people of Vietnam to get easy access to information on culture and tourism of India, and would also serve as a showcase of Indian culture and performing arts.
We are already successfully conducting classical dance, music and yoga classes in the ICC. The library at the center is open to public giving them access to various volumes of select Indian literature and books. We would soon be expanding our activities to have exhibitions and other cultural programs and events at the center.
Reporter: This is the first year of your working term in Vietnam, can you share with us your feelings about Vietnam, its people and the atmosphere around you when the Lunar New Year is coming?
Mr. Parvathaneni Harish: My tenure in Vietnam has been extremely rewarding and within a short span of time, I have had the privilege of organizing high level visits such as the visit of the Defense Minister of India to Vietnam in June, 2016, the Prime Ministers visit in September, 2016 and Madam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Chairperson of National Assembly to India in December, 2016.
There is also an increase in the commercial and defense ties with numerous incoming and outgoing delegations. Personally too, the Vietnamese people have been very kind and have welcomed me with an open heart.
The warmth of the bilateral relations is also reflected in the love and friendship showered by the peoples of the two countries on each other.
The Vietnamese Year of Rooster is fast approaching, and I feel the bustle of activity around me as the Vietnamese people get into the action to welcome the New Year.
All around Vietnam the ambience is festive. I would like to wish all my Vietnamese brethren a very Happy New Year.
Reporter: Thank you very much!