Hanoi| PTI| Vice President Venkaiah Naidu who’s on a visit to Vietnam stressed on the importance of building a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region on the basis of respect for national sovereignty and international law as he held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart on a range of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Naidu, who is in the Southeast Asian country for a four-day official visit, said the two countries have a strong bilateral relationship based on mutual trust, understanding, a convergence of views on regional and international issues.

"I am very happy to be visiting Vietnam, a civilisational friend and trusted partner, a strategic pillar of India's Act East Policy and our key interlocutor in ASEAN," Naidu said.

"We hope that the concerned countries are able to reach consensus on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. We are both fully committed to an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture based on freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded economic activities and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the international law," Naidu said.

His statement came a day after the Indian Navy participated with the navies of the US, the Philippines, and Japan in their first joint naval exercise in the disputed South China Sea, where China is flexing its muscle.

The Indo-Pacific is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.

The US has conducted a series of "freedom of navigation" exercises in the disputed South China Sea, triggering protests from Beijing over what it says is an infringement of sovereignty.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan are also claimants.

Vice President Naidu, in his statement, said the exchange of high-level visits from both the sides is a clear indication of the commitment of India and Vietnam to further strengthen the 'Comprehensive Strategic Partnership'.

"Buddhism has been a strong bond uniting our two peoples and nations. Indians came to the shores of this beautiful country two millennia ago with the message of Lord Buddha, of peace and compassion. The remains of the Champa civilization attest to the exchanges of people, goods, ideas, and philosophies," Naidu, who will deliver the keynote address at the 16th UN Day of Vesak Celebrations in Ha Nam province, said.

He extended his wishes to the people of Vietnam for the auspicious day of Vesak which will be celebrated on Sunday.

"I bring warm greetings from the land of Buddha to the friendly people of Vietnam," he said.

The talks between the two leaders were "extensive and productive", the MEA said.

"Our discussions covered the whole range of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. We have agreed to further strengthen our bilateral cooperation in defence and security, peaceful uses of atomic energy and outer space, science and technology, oil and gas, renewable energy, infrastructure development, agriculture, and innovation-based sectors," Naidu said.

The bilateral defence and security cooperation is robust and India and Vietnam are committed to further strengthen it, he said.

"Our bilateral trade stood at nearly USD 14 billion last year has nearly doubled from USD 7.8 billion three years ago.

I am confident that we will achieve our bilateral trade target of USD 15 billion by 2020.

"I look forward to directing air connectivity between our two countries and to the Indian civil aviation carrier Indigo starting direct flights between India and Vietnam later this year. This step would go a long way in boosting bilateral trade and tourism exchanges," the Vice President said.

Vice President Naidu invited his Vietnamese counterpart to visit India.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma