Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam): Looking at consolidating its ‘Look East’ policy, India on Monday said it was keen to open up new avenues of regional trade cooperation and further strengthen bonds of understanding with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Arriving here on the first leg of her 10-day visit to Vietnam and Indonesia, President Pratibha Patil said intensifying bilateral cooperation with the two countries, important members in the 10-nation grouping, has been a priority area for New Delhi.
“As a part of India’s ‘Look East Policy’, it has been our endeavour to forge close relations with countries of Asean, of which Vietnam and Indonesia are important countries,” she said on way to Vietnam.
Patil said New Delhi looked forward to further strengthening its historical association and bonds of understanding with the Asean nations.
The President was received warmly by Vice Chairperson of the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City Nguyen Thi Hong on her arrival to this former capital of erstwhile South Vietnam.
She said the recently concluded India-Asean Trade in Goods agreement would open up new avenues of regional inter-linkages in commerce between India and these countries.
Leading a delegation which included Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Ashwani Kumar, she said Vietnam and Indonesia as well as India have witnessed impressive growth rate, which has enabled higher interaction not only in the traditional areas of cooperation like trade and investment but also in fields like capacity building, science and technology, entrepreneurship development among others.
Patil, who will hold parleys with her Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during the four-day trip, said her talks with the Vietnamese leadership would aim at further strengthening political and economic links between the two countries.
During her stay in Vietnam, which would also take her to capital Hanoi, the President would attend a business delegation meeting being organised by Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
India-Vietnamese trade has increased manifold in recent years with India emerging as the 10th largest exporter of items to Vietnam. The total exports to Vietnam touched a figure of $1.3 billion last year.
A number of Indian software training companies have been able to conclude franchise arrangements with Vietnamese agencies.
Three Indian companies, NIIT, Aptech and Tata Infotech, have so far opened over 50 franchised IT training centres in Vietnam. Other IT majors like Satyam Computers and Wipro are also closely watching investment opportunities in Vietnam.
“During my visit, I will reiterate our close relations with Vietnam and seek new avenues of cooperation to make our ties even stronger,” the President said.
Besides identifying new areas of cooperation, she said, she would also exchange views on matters of regional and global interest including terrorism, energy security, food security and reform of the international organisations in the backdrop of the global financial crisis.
Besides Kumar, Patil is also accompanied by three MPs — Rubaya Sayeda, Haribhau Jawale and Agatha Sangma.
The President, who would be visiting Indonesia from 28 November, said that her trip signals India’s commitment to maintaining relations that benefit the two large nations who are neighbours, sharing a maritime boundary.
“We attach great importance to our relationship with Indonesia and will look forward to building partnerships across multiple sectors in a mutually beneficial manner,” said Patil, who would be holding talks with her counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Indonesia is the third largest trading partner of India in the ten-member Asean grouping and the trade volume exceeded $6.5 billion last year.
Indonesia is a major exporter of palm oil to India which is currently importing more than two million tonnes of the commodity from that country.
The visit would reaffirm India’s pursuit of closer and enduring partnership with Vietnam and Indonesia, important partners in the framework of India’s ‘Look East’ policy, she said.
Asean consists of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Singapore.