On Friday, July 6, 2007, in New Delhi, India, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a new strategic cooperative agreement with India which is designed to build closer strategic relations between the two nations. That same day in Hanoi, the government of Vietnam announced that it supported the “One China Policy” Beijing is pushing in order to deny Taiwan a seat at the United Nations and in other international bodies. Beijing still expects reunification with Taiwan; and now Vietnam has reiterated its support for the People’s Republic on this issue.
These two events dramatically signal both the plan Vietnam has adopted for dealing with its traditional protagonist, China, and the place this puts Vietnam in Asia both geographically and politically. On many issues Vietnam agrees with China’s position. And yet Vietnam has a large reliance upon aid, cooperation and trade from others such as India, regional Asian allies and the United States.
The New Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and India includes bilateral relations in the political, economic, security, defence, cultural, scientific and technological arenas. The Prime Minister from India H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh represented his government at negotiations, announcement and ceremonies.
The two prime ministers laid the groundwork for this week’s events at the January 2007 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Cebu, Philippines.
During this last week the two nations also agreed to cooperate more fully in international organizations like the United Nations and in regional and multilateral arenas.
Besides the over-arching strategic agreement, India and Vietnam signed eight pacts that include cooperation in the fields of nuclear science, agriculture, fisheries and education.
During the week of meetings, negotiations and consultations, India reaffirmed its commitment to assist Vietnam through grants and concessional lines of credit. Both nations also agreed to work together to establish an Asian community as part of India’s “Look East” policy.
Vietnam hopes that the next steps of its relationship with India will include a free trade agreement. Vietnam also believes it can lure more Indian companies to Vietnam to do business. Vietnam and China are both communist nations and so share an ideology. Additionally, many ethnic Chinese peoples live in Vietnam and many others in Vietnam have adopted Chinese cultural identities. In many places the two peoples seem as one but the Vietnamese take great pride in retaining their own traditions and their own identity.
India supported the communist Vietnamese who went to war against France and then the United States. Therefore, India and the communist of Vietnam have a relationship tracing back more than 50 years. In fact, Prime Minister Nehru of India and President Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam formally established the relationship in 1954.
President Ho Chi Minh once said: “The people of our two countries have got an age-old fraternity. The culture and Buddhism of India traveled to Vietnam since the ancient time”; and this is the only culture that came to Vietnam in a peaceful way. Following the independence for Vietnam in 1945 and India in 1947, friendship and formal cooperation between our two countries gradually came into being.
In January, 2007, Vietnam’s Ambassador to India Vu Quang Diem wrote in India’s national newspaper, The Hindu, “Our two nations have always stood shoulder to shoulder, sharing all the woes in the hardest of times.”Of the current agreement, the Ambassador wrote, “Today, we are reliable partners in the process of building together a new framework for cooperation in the 21st century.”
But India is something of a competitor of China. And India’s “Look East” policy may clash with plans that China has for Asian regional involvement.
And Vietnam has a shadow hanging over its strong economy. Organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International criticize Vietnam for it abysmal record on Human Rights.
Human Rights activist Mike Benge said, “This is the same Vietnamese communist regime responsible for the murder of more than 1 million Vietnamese.”
Vietnam continues to maneuver for its most advantageous position in Asia.
For now, Vietnam remains squarely in the middle.
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