India and Vietnam on Monday inked seven pacts, including one to enhance cooperation in the strategic oil sector, as they called for “freedom” of navigation in the South China Sea, a remark which could irk China which has been claiming territorial sovereignty over the high seas.
The agreements were signed during the second day of the four-day state visit of President Pranab Mukherjee who held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang in Vietnam.
“The leaders reiterated their desire and determination to work together to maintain peace, stability, growth and prosperity in Asia. They agreed that freedom of navigation in the East Sea/South China Sea should not be impeded and called the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the UNCLOS-1982,” said a joint communique issued after the meeting.
Apart from a Letter of Intent (LoI) signed between the ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) and Vietnam Oil, the other pacts include extending a dollar credit line between Vietnam and EXIM Bank of India, agreement on co-operation and mutual assistance in customs matters, MoU on animal health, MoU on setting up of Pangasius breeding and farming in India, MoU on operating and jointly promoting direct air services between Vietnam Airlines and domestic Indian air carrier Jet Airways and MoU on cooperation in youth affairs and skill development.
The two sides also agreed to undertake a focussed cooperation in defence related procurement.
They also reiterated their desire and determination to work together to maintain peace, stability, growth and prosperity in Asia, it said.
Mukherjee also congratulated the government and people of Vietnam on the remarkable achievements recorded in recent years while Sang saluted India on the successful completion of the recent Lok Sabha elections and expressed his belief that under the leadership of the new government in India, the people of India will attain greater achievements in national development.
The two leaders highlighted scope for expansion in ICT, science and technology, space and other areas.
The MoU on line of credit of the Exim bank signed on Monday will explore opportunities for this cooperation in the future.
Also, under the new air connectivity deal, both Jet Airways and Vietnam Airlines will fly a daily flight connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh city starting November 5.
He and Sang jointly planted a sapling of the Holy ‘Bodhi Tree’ which was gifted to Vietnam as a mark of respect and recognition of India’s strong-rooted and growing ties with it.