HANOI - India's Foreign Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, met Vietnam's Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, and Deputy Prime Minister, Pham Binh Minh, during her visit to the country August 25 as the two sides sought closer links against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive China.
Swaraj is on a three-day visit to the country and in addition to meeting Dung and Minh is also scheduled to hold meetings with President Truong Tan Sang.
In an interview with Indian media in Hanoi on August 24, Swaraj said that it was time to replace India's “Look East policy”, that aims to link the country's northeast with South East Asia, with an “Act East Policy.”
Her visit comes just days after Vietnam renewed India's lease of two oil blocks in South China Sea for another year, PetroVietnam said, a move that could upset China.
Overlapping claims in the South China Sea have fueled confrontation in recent months with China, which claims 90 percent of the sea. The South China Sea is believed to contain oil and gas deposits and has bountiful fisheries. As well as China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the sea, through which passes about $5 trillion of trade per year.
Vietnam and India have strong ties in trade and investment with bilateral trade amounting to USD 8 billion annually. India exports roughly USD 5.4 billion worth of goods to Vietnam each year.
The two countries co-operate in defense, security, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
During her visit, Swaraj is also expected to chair the third round-table of the ASEAN-India Network of think tanks.