The following is the full text of his speech:
“Ambassador Shri Rajiv Kumar Bhatia, Mr. Chair,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour to be with you at the Indian Council of WorldAffairs – a very prestigious institution. Standing here, I am remindedof the late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who established thisbuilding, and the late President Ho Chi Minh, who had been here duringhis visit to India some decades ago. Uncle Ho and Chacha Nehru, our twogreat founding fathers, laid the common foundation between Vietnam andIndia. Their warm personal friendship truly helped cement the bondsbetween our two nations. During his time, the late President Ho Chi Minhoften emphasised the contribution by India – an independent and strongnation – to peace in Asia and the world. All of these words remainrelevant today.
I would like to present my further thanks toAmbassador Rajiv Bhatia and the Indian Council of World Affairs forstrengthening the dialogue and understanding between our two countries.Your joint effort with the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam had madepossible the Seminar on Vietnam and India Strategic Partnership: FutureDirections last July. I was briefed that the Seminar was verysuccessful.
The fact that I am invited to speak with youtoday, ladies and gentlemen, demonstrates your interests in Vietnam, inour bilateral relationship, and in what our two countries can achievetogether in this changing global and regional landscape.
Onthis occasion, I wish to share with you a few thoughts on the dynamicsof our world and our region, the role of India, ASEAN and Vietnam, andsome suggestions on how to bring our strategic partnership forward.
1. Global and Regional Contexts
First, I often ask myself: What kind of world are we living in now?
It looks to me in the last few years that we stand before a world ofprofound changes. The global financial crisis has brought aboutstructural movements in the global economy, in growth models andstrategies, in the trends in manufacturing, consumer and financialmarkets and in the increasing connectivity of economies and regions.
One immediate impact of those changes is the shift indynamics of power. We have seen power gradually shifts from West toEast, from North to South, and from the developed countries to thedeveloping world. Whereas the leading industrial powers face withextreme difficulties, the emerging economies have seen seeminglyunstoppable rise. In the last five years alone, there have beenmomentous changes at the world’s table of economic power. In 2010, Chinabecame the world’s second largest economy, India became the ninthlargest in 2011 and Brazil already caught up with Britain. Between 2001and 2012, the total size of BRICS economies expanded 6 folds while theworld’s entire economy grew twice. The voice of BRICS is nowincreasingly heard in the global economy, in international relations andin the global security structure. The coordinating economic role of theG-20 is also an established fact. The emerging economies have alteredfundamentally the nature of power politics. Relationship among majorpowers is no longer the exclusive domain of leading industrial nations.
Against that backdrop, our Asia is now becoming thecentre of gravity, the engine of world growth and economic recovery. Inthe last few years, notwithstanding global economic downturn, Asianeconomies still register strong growth. Last year, that reached 7.6percent. One notable feature of Asia is emerging regionalism. With atotal of 76 free trade agreements, Asia – Pacific leads the world in thedrive for economic integration in the absence of progress of the DohaRound. I am of the view that the number of FTAs and other forms ofeconomic linkage will continue to rise. For example, along with theprocess of ASEAN Community, we have witnessed the gradual emergence ofthe Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Trans PacificPartnership (TPP), Northeast Asia Free Trade Area, Enhanced EconomicEngagement between ASEAN and the United States, Mekong Suregionalcooperation. The scope of activities within ASEM and APEC now expands tocover non-traditional issues.
Another indication ofAsia’s importance is that all major powers now focus on the region. Itis inevitable as four leading global economies, three permanent membersof the United Nations Security Council and 10 out of 20 members of theG20 are from Asia. The world has been paying most attention to China’sspectacular rise, the US with its strategic rebalancing, India’s LookEast policy and Japan gradually assuming an active role. Many leadingthink tanks agree that by 2030 Asia – Pacific will surpass othercontinents and regions in terms of power, population, GDP output andmilitary spending.
These profound changes have broughtabout both opportunities and challenges. Although major powers stillretain their enormous ability to control events, the influence ofemerging powers cannot be denied. International politics have becomemore democratic and multi-polar as a result. If we reflect on the globallandscape a decade earlier, we can see that the United Nations andmultilateral organizations nowadays play a more significant role inmaintaining peace, stability and international security. Internationallaw is now recognized as a point of reference for all global issues.Against this backdrop, peace and stability have more chances to bemaintained, thus ensuring a favourable environment for development. And aprosperous Asia is, in turn, the very propeller for the socio-economicdevelopment at each of our countries.
Historicallyhowever, any shift in the dynamics of power lead to some sorts of chaos.Countries in Asia still have to deal with the aftermaths of the wars inIraq and Afghanistan as well as the lingering shadow of terrorism. TheKorean Peninsula remains a hotspot. We are faced daily with internaleconomic, political and social difficulties, partly fueled by theeconomic downturn. Non-traditional threats now affect our lives in theforms of climate change, sea rise, calamities, food, energy and watersecurity, cybercrime etc. Of particular concern are territorial disputesbetween countries, especially on the East China Sea and East Sea (SouthChina Sea). These disputes are further aggravated by competition amongmajor powers, by the changes in strategic goals, by rising nationalisticsentiments, and by the arms race in certain parts of the region.
Among these complexities, we all share the common interest inpeace, stability, security and freedom of navigation along the majormaritime route that link West and East, from the Mediterranean, the Gulfthrough Indian Ocean, to the Eastern Sea and further to the Pacific.Incidents that took place in the last few years have complicated thesituation on the East Sea, one of the most important links on thatmaritime route. I believe you in India are all aware of those incidents.
What I wish to emphasise is that the East Sea is ofutmost importance to the global commons – that is, overall peace,stability, security and freedom of navigation, freedom of trade and thecommon prosperity for the whole world. It is estimated that overthree-fourths of global trade in goods are transported by sea, andtwo-thirds of those merchandise go by way of the East Sea. All littoralstates on the East Sea, and all major economies, within and without theregion, depend on this maritime route for their livelihood. It is forthis reason that apart from protecting each country’s own heritage, wemust also strive to protect these global commons that is sovereignty,territorial integrity, and the economic interests in terms of naturalresources, fisheries and oil.
At the 12 th Shangri-LaDialogue last month in Singapore, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen TanDung called on all nations to jointly build and enhance a strategictrust for peace, cooperation and prosperity. This strategic trust mustbe based on good will and sincerity, the will to observe internationallaw, and the responsibility of all nations, first and foremost of majorpowers. And the efficiency of multilateral security mechanisms must beenhanced, in which ASEAN’s centrality must be respected.
In this regard, we appreciate the consistent position of the Republicof India, in words and in deeds, on the issue of maintaining peace andsecuring maritime lanes on the high seas as well as the East Sea. Wewelcome the recent statement by External Affairs Minister SalmanKhurshid during the meeting with ASEAN in Brunei last few days, when herejected any use of force and supported freedom of navigation.
After all, my dear friends, as Jawaharlal Nehru said: “Without peace,all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes”.
2. Regional architecture, India’s and ASEAN’s Roles
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The second question I ponder myself is: How do we navigate in thisuncharted water? How do we build a lasting foundation for peace andstability, so that we can all prosper in Asia?
I am ofthe view that peace cannot be guaranteed by defence means alone. Theanswer to peace may lay in the ever expanding network of countries, inoverall connectivity and linkage of economic, trade, political,security, cultural and social fields. We must do so not only betweencountries, but also at different levels: among subregions,intra-regional and inter-regional. By this profound integration, we cancreate intertwined interests, involve all players, enforce rules andnorms, and minimise the potentials of conflict.
Bearingthat in mind, I think we should have an ever broader view that Asia –Pacific and South Asia are interlinked into what is called Indo –Pacific. There are today many proposals, ideas, concepts and initiativesthat promote linkage between South Asia with East Asia and the Pacific.This reflects a reality that we all share a common prosperity, ourdestinies are intertwined. And ASEAN plays the crucial role as thebridge linking our regions, as the threshold for India to enter Asia –Pacific.
As you may be aware of, existing multilateralarrangements in Asia – Pacific has not been fully effective inpreventing and managing conflicts, nor do they deal adequately withnon-traditional security issues such as the SARS outbreak in 2003,tsunami disasters in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and Japan in 2011.
Therefore, much has been expected of the evolving regionalarchitecture as one of the steps towards addressing the challenges andrealizing the Indo-Pacific. Along that line, ASEAN has played theimportant role as the nexus of regionalism. The Association is able tomaintain a dynamic growth of an economic community of 600 millionconsumers and GDP output of 2,100 billion USD. Apart from being the hubof most regional and bilateral FTAs, ASEAN is also at the centre ofmechanisms and instruments to ensure peace and security. I can name theTreaty on Amity and Cooperation (TAC), SEANWFZ, Declaration on theConduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), East Asia Summit (EAS),ASEAN+ Defense Ministers Meeting. The annual gatherings of ASEANprovide strategic platforms for all regional countries to get together,to manage potential conflicts and to promote regional connectivity. Sofar, ASEAN has been able to maintain a dynamic balance in promoting tieswith all dialogue partners.
In the upcoming years,ASEAN’s priorities are: to realise the Roadmap towards a Community bythe end of 2015, to increase connectivity and bridge the developmentgap, and to ensure sustainable and inclusive development. However,looking further beyond 2015, ASEAN must be more proactive in enhancingour centrality in the evolving regional architecture. We must play aleading role in addressing the most pressing challenges of the region,both traditional and non-traditional security issues.
Inorder to realise these goals, ASEAN will step up our interaction withDialogue partners and to encourage them to further engage with us and towork with us toward the said common goals, that is peace, stability anddevelopment of the region. In this regard, ASEAN in general and Vietnamin particular always view India with great respect and as an importantpartner. India naturally has a formidable presence in theIndo-Pacific by virtue of its size, its economy and its willingness toassume a greater role on the world stage.
Economically, asan economic powerhouse and a key driver, India has much leverage. Itspopulation, the vitality of its youth with the highest proportion ofworking age in Asia makes the country a creative hub of IT. The countrycan contribute to regional growth through its growing web of FTAs andPTAs with ASEAN and other countries and its increasing two-way flows ofinvestment with the rest of Asia.
Strategically, Indiacommands a geo-political location that straddles the land and maritimespace between East and West. As the founding and leading member of theNon-Aligned Movement, the country holds high prestige and role in thedeveloping world. India and its relations with other powers have longformed a component of the regional security structure. More importantly,India is proving to be among leaders of global importance andinfluence.
In the past two decades, India has played aconstructive role with its notable Look East Policy through economiccooperation and security initiatives. The establishment of the ASEAN –India Strategic Partnership for Peace and Shared Prosperity in 2012 hasbrought our cooperation to a new height. Your presence in Southeast Asiabecomes more visible in many fields: political, economic, trade,defence, energy cooperation. The statistics alone are impressive: TheFree Trade Agreement on Goods between India and ASEAN has created alinkage between two giant markets with 1.8 billion consumers and totalGDP output of 3 trillion USD. Bilateral trade volume between India andASEAN reached 80 billion USD in 2012.
However, betweenASEAN and India, there are still potentials that need to be tapped andexplored further. We need to work more closely together ininter-regional initiatives. We need to join force in schemes that linkour sub regions such as the Mekong-Ganga Initiative, between ASEAN andthe South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). There areareas that India can help in a meaningful way, such as cooperation inthe Lower Mekong to which Japan, the United States and Korea are partiesto, and initiatives for connectivity in infrastructure, land andmaritime transport.
We in ASEAN notice that India’sinterests in Southeast Asia have surged in recent years. I welcome theestablishment of the Coordinating Committee for ASEAN – IndiaConnectivity at the last joint ministerial meeting ten days ago. TheASEAN – India Centre was also set up recently, to name but a few of thenew initiatives.
In short, we in ASEAN welcome India’scommitment and engagement with ASEAN with concrete measures. We all wantto see more of India’s presence in Southeast Asia, not onlypolitically, but also economically. And as a responsible and proactivemember of ASEAN, Vietnam stands ready to be at the forefront of thecooperation between the Associations with India. With the even moreactive India in cooperation with ASEAN, we can dream of a vastIndo-Pacific with strong linkages, efficient connectivity and after all,with shared prosperity and peace.
3. Vietnam-India Strategic Partnership in the changing regional landscape
Which brings me to the third question: What shall we, Vietnam and India, do together in this changing landscape?
Vietnam and India treasured a long history of interaction. The Indiancivilisation has left its visible and invisible marks in Vietnameseculture. One notable feature of this time-honoured interaction betweenour two nations is that it has been entirely peaceful.
With the founding of modern Vietnam in 1945, we have an India as afaithful friend ever since. And I believe you find the same in us.Constantly built up through the years, mutual trust is the mostimportant heritage that we have. And it was that very mutual trust thathelped sustain our traditional friendship in times of turbulence. Thisis the legacy of our bilateral relations that we must safeguard. And Iam certain that it was what the late President Ho Chi Minh and latePrime Minister Jawaharla Nehru had nurtured and intended.
Upon the foundation of mutual trust, common values and shared strategicinterests, the Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and India was builtin 2007 and has flourished ever since. In this time of no lesschallenges, we should stand together to address the political andeconomic issues presented by the changing regional contexts. The nexusbetween India’s Look East Policy and Vietnam’s foreign policy of overallinternational integration provides much space for us to work together.We must also pool our efforts to translate the huge potential inbilateral cooperation into reality, so that our partnership stands on afirmer ground.
The Declaration that established theStrategic Partnership between our two countries in 2007 set out veryclearly the five pillars of cooperation. These are: political, defenseand security cooperation, economic cooperation and commercialengagement, closer trade and investment, science and technology,cultural and technical cooperation, and cooperation at multilateral andregional forums. During his state visit to India in 2011, PresidentTruong Tan Sang and the Indian leaders agreed on more concrete steps andtargets that both sides should work on. Among those, the leaders agreedthat we should aim to bring annual two-way trade to USD 7 billion by2015.
By the end of 2012, we had concluded a successfulYear of Friendship of Vietnam and India. Efforts made by both sidesduring the year brought about significant achievements, making firmerground for our relationship to soar in the years to come.
The year 2013 has witnessed ever more efforts to consolidate what wegained last year. Last week, H.E. Mr. Kapil Sibal, the Indian Ministerof Communication and Information Technology, visited Vietnam and reacheda number of agreements with his Vietnamese counterpart. In the upcomingyears, Vietnam will choose IT as a foundation for new developmentmodel. We look to India, as a leading IT industry powerhouse in theworld, for help and support. I fully agree with proposals by MinisterSibal that Vietnam and India should set up joint ventures in IT, makingfull use of India’s advantage in software and Vietnam’s hardwareproducts.
My visit to the Republic of India this time isto co-chair with my colleague, HE Mr. Salman Khurshid, Minister ofExternal Affairs, the 15 th plenum of the Joint Vietnam – IndiaCommission. Yesterday Minister Khurshid and I discussed ways to realizethe many targets between our two countries. I expressed our views thatVietnam has a lot to offer in terms of trade and investment. We supportIndian businesses to explore more opportunities in oil exploration,electricity, science and technology and agriculture. A vivid example isthat Tata Power has won a USD 1.8 billion contract to build the thermalpower plant Long Phu 2 in the province of Soc Trang, thus bringing Indiafrom 40th to 12th biggest foreign investor to Vietnam.
These are merely a few examples of our recent endeavours. As much as Iam proud of our long-lasting friendship, I am fully optimistic aboutthe prospect of our relations. The potentials are there, and they arehuge. What matters is we must continue to work tirelessly together totap into those opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to conclude my speech by expressing my deep appreciation toall of you, scholars and officials of the Indian Council of WorldAffairs. Please be assured that we in Vietnam follow closely yourresearches, debates and policy recommendations. We greatly value yourinputs on the global and regional situation and on our bilateralstrategic partnership.
Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, ladies and gentlemen, may I wish you the best of health, happiness and prosperity.
Thank you very much once again.”-VNA