Keen to bolster India's bilateral ties with the strategically-important Vietnam, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will today undertake a series of meetings with the top leadership here focusing on connectivity, trade, defence and security cooperation.
Swaraj, who arrived here last evening, will hold talks with her Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh. She will also call on President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
The Minister has said that she will discuss a number of issues with the Vietnam leadership. She said that under the new BJP-led government, India will adopt an "Act East Policy" for which Vietnam is an important country. The visit to Vietnam comes just days after Hanoi renewed India's lease of two oil blocks in South China Sea for another year, a move that could rile China.
China and Vietnam have an acrimonious relationship due to their stand-off over the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons.
Due to its estranged ties with China, Vietnam is looking at India for a deeper defence cooperation which includes possible procurement of weaponry besides training especially that of the Navy.
Talking about Indo-Vietnam cooperation, Swaraj said that India had helped Vietnam with its knowhow in rice cultivation through a rice centre set up here. "Look today, at how they have left us behind" in rice exports, she said addressing an event here last night.
Since 1976, India has offered several Lines of Credit (LoCs) to Vietnam over the years on concessional terms and conditions. So far, India has extended 17 LoCs worth more than USD 165 million to Vietnam. The last major LoC extended by India was in July last year for execution of a hydropower and pumping project.
Officials said that India has also extended lines of credit of USD 100 million for infrastructure and defence procurement. India has also agreed to consider earmarking an amount of USD 100 million under Buyer's Credit to the National Export Insurance Account for use by Vietnam.
Both the countries also have a fairly robust economic ties and the bilateral trade stands at USD 8 billion, of which Indian exports to the country is about USD 5.4 billion.