President Pranab Mukherjee arrived here on Sunday on a four-day state visit to strategically important Vietnam during which he will hold talks with the country’s top leadership and the two nations will ink pacts in key areas of oil exploration and air connectivity.
Mukherjee was received at the Noi Bai International Airport by Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of President’s Office Dao Viet Trung along with other functionaries of the Vietnamese government and officials of the Indian Embassy here.
The President was also given a guard of honour. As official engagements begin tomorrow, Mukherjee would hold discussions with President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on issues of international, regional and bilateral importance. During the visit he will also travel to the historic city of Ho Chi Minh. Ahead of his visit, Mukherjee termed security and defence as “major pillars” of cooperation between the two countries and said he was of the view that there was much more potential that can be realised in these areas and both sides are working towards it along with other regional partners.
An agreement between India’s ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Petro Vietnam for exploring oil in the South China Sea blocks are among the number of pacts to be inked during the visit. Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is part of the delegation that is travelling with the President. The attempt to invite India for drilling operations in the disputed South China Sea is seen by experts as a move by Vietnam to counter China’s influence in the region. China and Vietnam have an acrimonious relationship due to their standoff over the South China Sea, a major source of hydrocarbons.
China has been objecting to any activity in South China Sea region including Indian oil exploration as it has territorial disputes with some ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines. The trade volume between India and Vietnam has been worth USD 8 billion during 2013-14 and plans are afoot to take it to 15 billion USD by 2020. The visit will also mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the countries even as the foundation for strategic partnership was laid in 2007. Mukherjee, during the visit, will also gift a sapling of the holy ‘bodhi tree’ to the country to symbolise the strong and growing partnership between India and Vietnam.