Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Vietnam, possibly in the first week of September, will open a "new page" in bilateral relations between the two countries, Vietnamese Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh said today.
Modi's proposed visit to Hanoi comes against the backdrop of an international tribunal ruling against China’s claims over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Hanoi has welcomed India's stand on the ruling of the tribunal on the dispute.
"We expect that Prime Minister Modi's visit will be soon. It will open a new page in bilateral relationship. We hope the visit will upgrade ties to a more comprehensive level. Preparation for the visit is going on," he said during a media interaction at the Foreign Correspondents Club here.
Thanh said the situation in the South China Sea region was "getting worse" with militarisation.
He did not announce any date when asked whether the trip would be around Modi's visit to China to attend the G-20 meeting or ASEAN summit in Laos in the first week of September.
Modi will be in Guangzhou, China on September 4-5 to attend the G-20 leaders’ summit. He is expected to attend the ASEAN summit will begin in Vientiane, Laos on September 6-7 but an official announcement is yet to be made.
A visit by Modi to Hanoi is expected as he will be in the vicinity but a formal announcement has not been made yet.
The visit will be the first by an Indian PM in the last 15 years.
The envoy reminded that the two countries were gearing up to celebrate milestones in the form of 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations and 10 years of the establishment of strategic partnership.
Thanh said Vietnam "appreciates" India's position on the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling whereby it "recognises" the international court as well as the UN Convention on Law of Seas (UNCLOS).
"The most important part is that India respects international law and especially freedom of aviation and navigation. Other countries should not use force or threat of force in South China Sea," Thanh said.
Stressing that Vietnam deplores "militarisation", the envoy said the court ruling, which holds the potential to reduce the area of dispute, needs to be complied with.
"The situation in South China Sea is getting worse with militarisation and so the ruling is welcome. The situation is not stable and territorial issues have not been settled yet," Thanh, the country's ambassador to India since 2014, said.
Asked whether Brahmos would be on the table during Modi's visit, Thanh said while Vietnam appreciates India's "achievements" in the defence sector, "whatever we buy is for self-defence".
Referring to the 100-million-dollar line of credit extended to Vietnam for defence procurements during President Pranab Mukherjee's visit last year, he said the contractor has been chosen and the construction of the naval patrol boats would start soon with that amount.
He said Vietnam, which will host the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit next year, would welcome India's membership in the grouping provided there was a consensus to lift the moratorium imposed on any such new joining.
Thanh added that Vietnam was trying to manage good relations with both India and China and that mutual ties between any two countries should not be seen as "against" a third country.
"On bilateral disputes we are ready to talk bilaterally while on multilateral disputes we are ready for negotiations involving two more more parties. But if needed we may explore other legal options," he said.