Hanoi, Sep 3 (IANS): Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China, India on Saturday boosted its defence ties with Vietnam by offering a $500-million defence line of credit to the southeast Asian nation and signing an agreement on construction of patrol boats.
The two sides also upgraded their relationship from "strategic partnership" to "comprehensive strategic partnership".
In a joint press statement with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc following delegation-level talks here, Modi said that both sides "agreed to deepen our defence and security engagement to advance our common interests".
"The agreement on construction of offshore patrol boats signed earlier today is one of the steps to give concrete shape to our defence engagement," Modi said. "I am also happy to announce a new defence line of credit for Vietnam of $500 million for facilitating deeper defence cooperation."
The Prime Minister also said that the ASEAN region was "important to India in terms of historical links, geographical proximity cultural ties and the strategic space that we share".
Vietnam is India's country coordinator for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"It (ASEAN) is central to our Act East Policy. Under Vietnam's leadership as Asean Coordinator for India, we will work towards a strengthened India-Asean partnership across all areas," Modi said.
Noting that Vietnam was undergoing rapid development and strong economic growth, he said: "As Vietnam seeks to empower and enrich its people, modernise its agriculture, encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, strengthen its science and technology base, create new institutional capacities for faster economic development, and take steps to build a modern nation, India and its 1.25 billion people stand ready to be Vietnam's partner and a friend in this journey."
Modi said that his discussions with Prime Minister Phuc covered the full range of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. "Our decision to upgrade our Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership captures the intent and path of our future cooperation," he sated. "It will provide a new direction, momentum and substance to our bilateral cooperation. Our common efforts will also contribute to stability, security and prosperity in this region."
In consonance with India's continued developmental aid to Vietnam, Modi offered a grant of $5 million for the establishment of a software park in the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang.
"The framework agreement on space cooperation would allow Vietnam to join hands with Indian Space Research Organisation to meet its national development objectives," he said.
For boosting bilateral commercial ties, he said that new trade and business opportunities would be tapped to achieve the trade target of $15 billion by 2020. India's bilateral trade with Vietnam currently stands at $7.8 billion. "I also sought facilitation of ongoing Indian projects and investments in Vietnam," the Prime Minister said. "And, I have invited Vietnamese companies to take advantage of the various schemes and flagship programmes of my government."
Referring to the centuries-old cultural connect between the people of the two countries, Modi said that an Indian Cultural Centre would be opened in Hanoi soon.
"The Archaeological Survey of India can soon start the conservation and restoration work of the Cham monuments at My So'n," he said. The My So'n monuments are a cluster of ruined Hindu temples constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD. They are dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva.
Modi arrived here on Friday ahead of his visit to China to attend the G-20 Summit to be held on September 4-5. This is the first bilateral prime ministerial visit from India to Vietnam in 15 years since the visit of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001.