India gazes east toward strategic Vietnam

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Vietnam occupies a strategic position in India's "Look East" policy, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed has told Vietweek in an exclusive interview.

India deeply valued Vietnam's support for the ASEAN region's closer engagement with India as India sought to create an arc of mutual advantage in the region, said Ahamed, who is on a visit to Vietnam in connection with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations, January 7, and the fifth anniversary of the establishment of a strategic partnership between the two countries, January 5.

Vietnam and India had regularly exchanged high-level visits, including, in the last five years, by their respective presidents and prime ministers.

From US$200 million in 2000, bilateral trade had grown nearly 14 times by 2010.

The Indian corporate sector had a growing interest in investing in and doing business with Vietnam, looking at it as a hub for reaching out to the entire ASEAN region.

Indian investments in Vietnam, spread across sectors like agro-processing, petroleum, IT-education, steel and carbon black, exceeded $400 million and were growing steadily.

But despite the achievements, bilateral trade and economic and cultural cooperation were still below potential.

"We stand ready to add more content to the strategic partnership forged in 2007, especially in the economic, commercial, scientific-technical, and cultural fields.

"Both sides have set a revised trade target of $7 billion by 2015."

India had set up a short-term Tagore Chair for contemporary Indian studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City.

Rabindranath Tagore, who died in the mid-20th century, was an Indian genius who wrote the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh, painted prolifically, composed brilliant music, and wrote poetry, novels and plays to become the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize for literature.

Vietnam Airlines and India's Jet Airways had signed an MOU for the commencement of direct flights in 2012, Ahamed said.

The visiting dignitary will meet the country's leadership in Hanoi and HCMC.

He will attend receptions organized in both cities and the opening of the Institute of Indian and South West Asian Studies in Hanoi.

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