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India and Vietnam agree to make ASEAN stronger and more integrated

A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with ASEAN leaders during the 2017 East Asia Summit (Image courtesy: PIB)

India and Vietnam held a major brainstorming at a time when the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping is considering formation of a tighter bloc, which is more self-reliant for its security and economy.

The political consultations and strategic dialogue between the two foreign ministries were held virtually on Friday between Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East) and Vietnam's Vice Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dzung.

The talks took place when the ASEAN is showing greater awareness of its role in addressing complex regional challenges, including tackling China, which is increasingly gaining a foothold in the land and waters of the region.

Changing geopolitical landscape in Southeast Asia

As the Indo-Pacific region becomes the geopolitical centre of the world, the Southeast Asian countries have realised their importance as strategic players in the consistently fast-evolving situation.

On Wednesday, while addressing the ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the integration of the ASEAN community, saying that the "new normal" is a necessary and appropriate task to create a great force aimed at transforming the entire region.

"From this perspective, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 will serve as a key plan that will further promote harmony and inclusivity in the three key dimensions of connectivity – physical, institutional and people-to-people," Hun Sen was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

The ASEAN Master Plan is directly linked to India's initiatives under its 'Act East' policy to convert corridors of connectivity into economic corridors of shared prosperity and enhance economic, industrial and trade relations between ASEAN and India.

Malaysia's Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein on the other hand urged the Southeast Asian countries to remain a united bloc and promote the region's interests while dealing with "external" parties.

"It is now more important than ever for ASEAN to be united in these trying times. Despite the challenges, ASEAN has remained one of the most successful regional cooperation in the world, but new developments require us to work even harder, as the opportunities to split us continue to grow," he said in his speech during the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Retreat held virtually on Thursday.

India and Vietnam enhance strategic partnership

During their virtual talk on Friday, New Delhi and Hanoi sought convergence on India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and the ASEAN's Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region.

The dialogue is guided by the 'Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People' adopted by the Prime Ministers of India and Vietnam during their virtual summit in December 2020 and the Plan of Action for 2021-2023 signed by their foreign ministers.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the two countries also explored new opportunities for partnership to support economic revival in each other's country with Das reaffirming India's development and capacity building assistance to Vietnam through various initiatives.

Also Read: PM Modi to address East Asia Summit – what is the meet all about?