Vietnam which is the chair of ASEAN for this year has said the grouping sees India as an important country and called for the strengthening of ties and cooperation in pharma and connectivity.

Pham Sanh Chau, Vietnam’s envoy to India, over the aggressiveness by certain countries, “we call for all countries to abide by international law, to try to abide by the principle of peaceful negotiation of dispute”.

Speaking exclusively with our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, he also confirmed, that India and Vietnam will hold a virtual summit in December.

Q. As the Chair of ASEAN, what will be the key focus of the ASEAN summit and related meetings? 

Pham Sanh Chau: I believe the most important priority for ASEAN host is to collectively with other ASEAN countries, trying to address with other ASEAN countries the most effective way to deal with pandemic covid. That’s why, when we prepare for the summit, we did not expect that covid would have happened. The theme of this year is cohesive and responsive.

Thereby, we have come up with the number of the solution in order to address the pandemic and one of the most successful outcomes of the chairmanship of Vietnam is that we are able to organise medical supplies stock. The second priority is to maintain regional integration of ASEAN, we are building communities. 3rd is we continued to work with our partners outside the region in order to implement the plans. 

Q. How do you see India role vis-a-vis ASEAN, and the ties with Vietnam. If you can provide details on the upcoming virtual summit as well?

Pham Sanh Chau: When you talk about a dialogue partner of ASEAN, we should not forget or ignore the importance of the role played by India. India and ASEAN established dialogue partner in 1992, recently we have upgraded bilateral relations to comprehensive partner. We are having India-ASEAN summit. Concerning the virtual summit between Vietnam and India, normally we have summit every 2 years. This time, because of the pandemic we have to organise it virtually.

Two sides are preparing for it. You know for Vietnam, India is one of the most important partners because it is a comprehensive strategic partner of Vietnam. It has a wide range of issues to be discussed and talk on this occasion. Recently we finished a joint commission meeting of the 2 foreign ministers of the 2 countries who have identified the pillars of the strategic partnership. At PM levels, they will review, basic 2 pillars are defence and security, and trade and economic partnership.

Q. How has been covid cooperation between both countries?

Pham Sanh Chau: Certainly we will discuss the common efforts, in order to address effectively the pandemic. We also, discuss cooperation in the pharma area. Both sides have exchanged experience and efforts in order to put covid under control. Vietnam will compliment India for the effort it has put to control the pandemic. We also share with India, what we did to make our country, COVID-19 free. 

Q. How do u see India-ASEAN ties, cooperation between India and the grouping?

Pham Sanh Chau: India is a very important country, it going to be a global partner for ASEAN and as a global player India will assume responsibility in many many fields. So we need to strengthen further cooperation that has been in existence between ASEAN and India, also between India and Vietnam. If you talk about specific sectors, the number of things can be done–we can improve Mekong Ganga cooperation, review the FTA, talk about people to people connectivity and deepening our economic and trade connectivity, which is very important. Two PMs have set the target of $15 billion per year.

Q. Amidst the pandemic one country has been aggressive with both India and Vietnam..your reaction to it?

Pham Sanh Chau: In the world of growing uncertainty we believe that respect for international law is the most important thing. We call for all countries to abide by international law, to try to abide by the principle of peaceful negotiation of dispute and try to exercise self-restraint to make sure peace and security are in the interest of all the countries in the region.

Q. India has been focusing on connectivity with ASEAN. Any update on it?

Pham Sanh Chau: In order to bring 2 sides closer together, in order to materialise act east policy of India, infrastructure and connectivity has been very important. Recently, Vietnam has been able to establish a direct air link between the 2 countries, it adds to physical connectivity. Now, on infrastructure connectivity, we hope one day we will have highway connecting various countries crossing Thailand, Cambodia, Lao in order to reach Vietnam. We are very optimistic about that day, but we need to work very hard because it’s not easy when it comes to projects. Basically, that is the direction we have to take in the future.

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Q. How do you see the Indo Pacific concept, backed by India.

Pham Sanh Chau: I think, this concept has been tabled by ASEAN as a grouping, and one of the key factors which are very similar to the Indo-Pacific vision of India, number 1, every country should respect international law, UN charter, UNCLOS, number 2 in any evolving security situation ASEAN centrality should be observed and respected and number 3, anything happens, we need to return to the peaceful settlement of all disputes via dialogue and consultations.

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