PANO - A Vietnamese high-ranking military delegation, led by General Ngo Xuan Lich, member of the Politburo, Minister of National Defense, is going to pay an official visit to the Republic of India. On the threshold of the visit, Lieutenant General Vu Chien Thang, Director of the Foreign Relations Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, granted an exclusive interview to the People’s Army Newspaper on the significance of the visit and potential for defense cooperation between the two countries.

Lieutenant General Vu Chien Thang, Director of the Foreign Relations Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense

Reporter: Could you please tell our readers about the purpose and significance of this visit?

Lt. Gen. Vu Chien Thang: The visit of Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich and the high-ranking military delegation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to India this time takes place when the two countries upgraded their Strategic Partnership to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in September 2016 and are preparing to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnam-India bilateral diplomatic relations (January 7, 1972 - January 7, 2017) and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of their Strategic Partnership (July 6, 2007 - July 6, 2017). Therefore, the success of this visit will contribute to creating a momentum to bring the two countries’ defense cooperation to a new height. The visit is also an opportunity for the two sides to discuss new initiatives to further promote their bilateral defense relations.

Reporter: Why is security-defense cooperation one of the important pillars in Vietnam-India relations, Lieutenant General?

Lt. Gen. Vu Chien Thang: The Vietnam-India Joint Statement, issued during the state visit to India by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in November 2013, clearly reads, “The leaders agreed that defense cooperation is a significant pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries.” This was reiterated recently by the two Prime Ministers during the visit to Vietnam made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In recent years, Vietnam-India defense cooperation has developed strongly and comprehensively, bringing about pragmatic outcomes. The two sides have signed many important cooperation documents, such as “the Memorandum of Understanding between the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense and the Indian Ministry of Defense on Bilateral Defense Cooperation” and “the Joint Vision Statement on Vietnam-India Defense Cooperation for 2015-2020 period.”

In terms of exchange of delegations, the two armies have enhanced the frequency of exchanges at all levels, especially at high level when the defense ministers and the chiefs of the General Staff of the two countries have visited each other many times. Since 2003, the two sides have conducted the deputy ministerial-level defense dialogue mechanism nine times and the 10th dialogue will take place in Vietnam next year. Since 2013, the two sides have launched the annual young officers exchange program.

Cooperation in education has also marked a bright point. Each year, India grants Vietnam tens of scholarships for training courses of English language, command and staff, and techniques in the country. Moreover, India has sent many experts to Vietnam to teach English and information technology.

In terms of cooperation on United Nations Peacekeeping activities, the two sides signed a cooperation program between the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense and the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on issues relating to UN peacekeeping operations, as a foundation to implement cooperation. India committed itself to assisting Vietnam to strengthen capacity in participating in UN Peacekeeping activities. Recently, India has invited Vietnam to send its officers to attend a short course on this field.

Moreover, the two armies actively support and cooperate with each other within the framework of multilateral forums, especially the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Since December 2014, Vietnam and India have co-chaired the conference of the Experts’ Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Action within the framework of the ADMM+.

Reporter: Could you please elaborate on the prospect of Vietnam-India defense cooperation in the coming time and India’s assistance to Vietnam in this field, Lieutenant General?

Lt. Gen. Vu Chien Thang: On the occasion of his official friendship visit to Vietnam in June this year, Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar and Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich agreed that bilateral defense cooperation should be further promoted in depth according to the agreements on defense cooperation and the vision to 2020, focusing on exchange of visits, experience sharing, high-quality human resource training, making the defense relation correspond to the two countries’ relations for mutual benefits, contributing to maintaining peace, stability, and development in the region and in the world as a whole. Vietnam highly appreciates the valuable assistance of the Indian Ministry of Defense, especially in terms of education and Naval and Air Force cooperation.

Moreover, as you know, during his recent visit to Vietnam, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again affirmed India’s commitment to enhancing defense industry cooperation with Vietnam and would provide financial assistance to Vietnam to implement cooperation projects in this field. Besides the principle contract of USD 100 million to provide high speed patrol vessels, signed between Larsen&Toubro and the Vietnam Border Guard,  Prime Minister Modi also announced a grant of USD 5 million for the establishment of the Military Software Park at the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa.

The relations between Vietnam and India in general and those between the two militaries in particular have been strengthened on the basis of political trust and common stance on regional and international issues. That is the foundation to help Vietnam-India defense cooperation develop vigorously, bringing about more pragmatic outcomes in the coming time.

Reporter: Thank you very much, Lieutenant General!

Interviewed by Vu Hung

Translated by Ngoc Hung