India & Vietnam | Act East Policy

Looking beyond the optics : Vietnam is crucial to India’s Look East Policy — bilateral ties must build on common concerns  

Mains Syllabus:-  Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests – (GS Paper II)

Context: India’s President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Vietnam


  • India’s President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Vietnam  highlights the significance of Vietnam in India’s foreign policy. A close ‘ally’ of India for over 70 years, Vietnam is critical for India’s foreign policy at the regional and systemic levels.
  • Vietnam’s progress : Domestically, since the start of its Doi Moi policy-its political and economic renewal campaign -in 1986, Vietnam has made dramatic progress.
  • For net importer of agriculture to net exporter.
  • Regional giant – its agriculture competence furthered its entry to Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), asserting its growing economic impact globally, with exports increasing to approximately $240 billion for the year 2018.
  • Membership to the CPTPP, which accounts for nearly 14% of the global GDP, will boost Vietnam’s economic growth, from 6.8 % in 2017-18, by a further 1.1% to 3.5% by 2030.


        India and Vietnam: area of cooperation:

  • Agriculture – One of the core areas of Mr. Kovind’s visit focussed on furthering cooperation in agriculture and innovation-based sectors, pushing the potential for increasing bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2020.
  • Health – An area of potential convergence for both Vietnam and India is health care. Both understand the importance of linking economic growth to universal health care. India too, since 2011, has been focussing on the need to deliver accessible and affordable health insurance to weaker sections of society. With Indonesia ratifying the India-ASEAN Services agreement on November 13, New Delhi is a step closer to signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, bringing India to the forefront of the services sector globally. A potential area of convergence in the realm of health care through joint public-private partnership agreements can be explored by the two countries.
  • Foreign policy – Internationally, Vietnam’s foreign policy is characterised by ‘multi-directionalism’, which addresses regional asymmetries of the power balance by engaging across a broad spectrum of states to achieve its interests. The rise of China, is bringing regional and extra-regional states together to address the shifts in the normative order. Within this context, Vietnam even normalised relations with the U.S., its former opponent.
  • Security Concerns – Today there is increasing commonality of security concerns between Vietnam and its ASEAN partners — as well as with Australia, India, Japan and the U.S., particularly in the areas of maritime security and adherence to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Emphasis on ‘rules based order in the Indo-Pacific’. India’s has its own concerns over troubled maritime spaces. In pursuance of this, the two countries have planned a bilateral level maritime security dialogue in early 2019.
  • Focus on sub- regionalism – combating China’s rise with help of small regional power. It is in India’s interest as well.Mekong Ganga plan – cooperation has been reiterated.Another area of emerging interest – Combodia – Laos – Vietnam(CLV), growth of triangle sub – regional cooperation,  India and Vietnam can jointly explore the potential for enhancing capacity building and providing technical assistance and training within this sub-regional grouping.


 Conclusion The‘cooperation model’ India offers, providing choices and opportunities for its friends. One such area where convergence is likely is  $500 million line of credit offered to Vietnam. Both India and Vietnam possess the capacity to find compatibility in areas promoting defence cooperation and infrastructure simultaneously. Vietnam’s role as country coordinator for India in ASEAN will come to a close in 2018. While the ties have progressed under the Look East and Act East Policies, going forward they need to factor in pragmatism, helping relations to move forward. India’s ability to look beyond the prism of optics will remain a core challenge.

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