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Vietnam important in India’s Look East policy : President Pranab Mukherjee

New Delhi, Sep 13 President Pranab Mukherjee Saturday termed Vietnam an “important pillar” in India’s Look East policy and said he hoped to strengthen this partnership when he meets his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang during his state visit to the southeast Asian country.

“We consider Vietnam as an important pillar in our Look East Policy. Vietnam has been a strategic partner for India both within ASEAN and in the wider region,” Mukherjee said in an interview to Vietnamese News Agency here prior to his state visit Sep 14-17.

With ASEAN integration acquiring momentum, India and Vietnam have deepened regional interaction, stepped up initiatives to promote connectivity and expanded people-to-people links to “enhance our (India-Vietnam) role in the new era”, he said.

“I see India and Vietnam as partners, contributing to peace, prosperity and stability in the wider region,” he said.

Mukherjee credited India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh for laying the foundation of friendship between the two countries, adding the bilateral relations “have never been better than what they are today”.

“Our strategic partnership, which was established in 2007, is now entering its eighth year of implementation. In recent years, our relations have witnessed a continuous broadening and deepening in all aspects,” he said.

Mukherjee stressed there is immense potential for cooperation between the two countries.

“I am confident that our mutual goodwill can be translated into further mutually beneficial cooperation, as there is immense potential for future cooperation,” he said, adding that political, defence and security cooperation determined the nature of bilateral cooperation.

“We are of the view that there is much more potential that can be realised in this area and both sides are working towards it, along with our regional partners,” he said.

Noting that the trade volume between India and Vietnam increased three and a half times since 2007, Mukherjee said the prospects for investment cooperation are also bright.

“More and more Indian companies are now looking at Vietnam for doing business. There is a great interest among businessmen for future cooperation and I am confident that with efforts on both sides, we will be able to increase our trade and investment levels several fold, in the years to come,” he said.

Mukherjee expressed hope that cooperation in advanced areas like civil nuclear cooperation and space cooperation will be strengthened in the coming years.

He said Vietnam is one of the largest recipients of India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC).

“We are expanding our education links through the Connect to India programme,” Mukherjee said, adding Buddhism closely connects the two countries and their peoples.

Talking about the initiative for inter-mingling of youth of the two countries, Mukherjee said that both sides are working on increased youth and cultural exchanges including exchange of cultural content, films and television programmes.

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