NEW DELHI, Feb 14 (IANS): India needs to aggressively develop its trade ties with Vietnam to take bilateral relations to the next level, particularly, to counter the increasing presence of China in the Southeast Asian region and in the South China Sea, experts said at a conference Tuesday.
Speakers at the conference on "India-Vietnam Ties: Retrospect and Prospect", organised by think tank Global India Foundation (GIF), said the two nations needed to tap the vast economic potential of their ties which face a stagnation threat in the absence of mutual commercial interests.
"We have a very robust relationship (with Vietnam). But we have not invested in the economic dimension as much as we should have," said Pinak Chakravarty, special secretary, public diplomacy, external affairs ministry.
Chakravarty, a former Indian ambassador to Thailand, said the two countries needed to work to achieve the trade target of $7 billion by 2015 to give a boost to economic ties.
"We have set a target of $7 billion but can we do that," he asked, affirming that there was a potential to do that.
Experts said that the time was apt for a review of the variables driving India-Vietnam relations and infusing a fresh spirit of cooperation.
The experts at the day-long conference said India, in particular, could not ignore the rising presence of China in the region and in the South China Sea.
In India's Look East policy, Vietnam had emerged as one of the most important destinations, especially for trade, they said, adding that the two nations had not done enough to benefit economically from each other.
Omprakash Mishra, member secretary of GIF, said India and Vietnam should focus on a "balance of interests and opportunities" rather than on the traditional balance of power.
Mishra said trade and economic ties had been on the upswing between the two countries but more needed to be done as they celebrated 40 years of their diplomatic relations and five years of embarking on the strategic partnership.
Trade between the countries has surged in recent times from $200 million in 2000 to more than $3.5 billion in 2011. But the figure is still half of the target.