External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday night arrived at the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi on the first leg of her four-day two-nation tour which aims at deepening India’s strategic cooperation with Vietnam and Cambodia – the key countries in the ASEAN region. Swaraj was received by ambassador P Harish, Indian children who greeted the minister with flowers and senior officials of the ministry of foreign affairs of Vietnam, the Indian Embassy in Hanoi tweeted. India’s ties are on an upswing with Vietnam and Cambodia — the two major countries in the powerful Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping. India has been particularly scaling up its cooperation with Vietnam in areas of maritime security and energy.
“A strategic partner and an important friend in ASEAN! EAM @SushmaSwaraj arrives in Hanoi, Vietnam to a warm welcome. Two days of packed programme on 27-28 August during EAM’s first leg of the two-country visit to South East Asia,” ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. In Vietnam, Swaraj will co-chair the 16th meeting of the joint commission along with the country’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister Pham Binh Minh. She will also call on prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Swaraj will also inaugurate the 3rd edition of the Indian Ocean Conference.
“The External Affairs Minister’s visit to Vietnam and Cambodia will provide an opportunity to hold in-depth discussions with the political leadership on a wide range of global, regional and bilateral issues and advance our strategic engagement with these countries and the ASEAN region,” the MEA had said in a statement yesterday. Swaraj will visit Cambodia on August 29. In her first official visit to Cambodia, Swaraj will hold extensive talks with her counterpart Prak Sokhonn covering the entire expanse of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interests. She will call on prime Minister Hun Sen and president of the Senate Say Chhum. During Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang visit to New Delhi in March, both the sides had vowed to join hands for an open and thriving Indo-Pacific besides ensuring an efficient and rules-based regional security architecture.
Vietnam and several other ASEAN member countries have territorial disputes with China over the resource-rich South China Sea. China has been opposing India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) exploring oil in areas claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea (SCS). India has been asserting that the ONGC’s exploration is a commercial operation and not connected with the dispute. Oil exploration in the SCS is a sensitive issue in the Vietnam-China relations.