New Delhi: Peace and prosperity will come to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region only when all countries step in to protect the freedom of navigation and combat narrow nationalism, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang said today in an apparent reference to China's military posturing in the area.
Tran also supported India's bid to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and said his country supported New Delhi's active participation in regional linkages and cooperation mechanisms.
The visiting president said political, defence and security cooperations were the "strategic pillars" of bilateral relations and emphasised the effective implementation of the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Referring to the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific, Tran said though the region was creating new drivers for growth, it faced "notable intertwined challenges". It was also the "core theatre" in the competition for power and influence among major powers, he added.
Delivering a lecture on Vietnam-India relations here, Tran said the aspiration that the next century becomes the "Indo-Asia-Pacific century" can be realised if all countries share a common vision for an open and rule-based region, and a common interest in the maintenance of peace, stability, and inclusive prosperity, "wherein no country, no nation, and no group shall be left behind".
"The aspiration (for the Indo-Asia-Pacific century) will come true when all countries join in the effort to protect the freedom of navigation and unimpeded trade and not let the Indo-Asia-Pacific be balkanised into spheres of influence manipulated by power politics, hindered by protectionism, or divided by narrow nationalism," Tran said.
The president's remarks come a day after India and Vietnam vowed to join hands for an open and thriving Indo-Pacific, besides ensuring an efficient and rule-based regional security architecture.
Tran said the two countries should promote maritime connectivity as a key area not just in bilateral relations but also in the context of peace, stability and development in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
India and Vietnam should work together to develop a blue-sea economy through maritime connectivity, port cooperation and environment protection with the sustainable use of maritime resources, he said.
"We should also make efforts to foster the maritime order and settle disputes peacefully on the basis of international law, including the 1982 United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.
Vietnam is one of the claimants to the disputed and hydrocarbon-rich South China Sea, where China has been expanding its military presence.
While India, along with several world powers such as the US, has been pressing for a resolution of the dispute on the basis of international law, China has been favouring a bilateral framework with respective countries.
Listing out the challenges, he said the region has hotspots, armed conflicts, territorial disputes, international terrorism and transnational crime.
Besides the South China Sea dispute, the volatile Korean peninsula and the Senkaku Islands territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo are among the main hotspots in the region.
Noting that India's "peaceful development" has always worked as an important and constructive factor to regional peace and stability, Tran said New Delhi deserved a greater role in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and the world.
"Vietnam welcomes India continuing to play her important role in the region. We consistently support your active participation in regional linkages and cooperation mechanisms, including APEC, as well as India becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council," he said.
Emphasising the need to strengthen trade as the "key pillar and driver" of the countries' Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Tran said the two sides need to overcome the mentality of protectionism, promote trade or investment liberalisation, upgrade infrastructure, maritime and aviation connectivity in both the bilateral context and the framework of sub-regional and regional plans.
The two nations have a bilateral trade of USD 10 billion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tran yesterday resolved to take it to USD 15 billion by 2020.
"Vietnam supports and will coordinate accordingly so that India will become an important element in the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan, finalising the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2018," he said.