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NEW DELHI: Amid uncertainty over the security situation in the South China Sea, where there has been no let-up in Chinese construction in disputed waters, India and Vietnam discussed maritime cooperation on Wednesday and vowed to further expand their defence ties.
India’s involvement in building Vietnam’s defence capabilities figured prominently in PM Narendra Modi’s bilateral meeting with his counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, ahead of the India-Asean summit.
Hanoi has been urging India to increase its profile in the Southeast Asia region and the countries are looking to further upgrade their defence partnership in the near future. Vietnam sees defencesecurity cooperation as the most “intensive and effective” pillar of Vietnam’s relations with India.
Apart from Phuc, Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also had bilateral meetings with Modi. According to MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, Modi and Suu Kyi had a productive discussion on intensifying bilateral cooperation, including follow-up on “key decisions” taken during Modi’s visit to Myanmar in September last year. In that context, they discussed India’s development programme for Rakhine state which saw an exodus of Rohingya Muslims after a military crackdown. Myanmar began accepting the return of refugees on Tuesday under an agreement it has reached with Bangladesh.
Both leaders reiterated their shared view that the situation in Rakhine had a developmental as well as a security dimension. India is helping Myanmar bring about overall socio-economic development in the state by undertaking both infrastructure and socio-economic projects. Modi will have bilateral meetings with other Asean leaders on Thursday before the summit scheduled for the evening. Apart from Indonesian President Joko Widodo “Jokowi”, all other Asean leaders arrived in Delhi on Wednesday.
Jokowi is scheduled to arrive on Thursday. India and Vietnam also signed two MoUs on the sidelines of the summit. There was one to enhance cooperation in the field of information and broadcasting and another between Isro and the National Remote Sensing Department of Vietnam for establishment of a tracking and data reception station and data processing facility in Vietnam.
India and the Philippines, too, signed an MoU which aims to facilitate direct investment between the two countries by providing practical investment information to enterprises.