In a significant development, India and Vietnam on Friday signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserting that it will further strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
Civil nuclear agreement was among four agreements signed between India and Vietnam in the course of the visit of Vietnam National Assembly's President Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan to India.
"The Prime Minister said that the bilateral Agreement on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, being signed today (Friday), will further strengthen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Vietnam," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the media after Ngan called on Modi here.
The agreement was decided during Modi's visit to Hanoi in September this year, when India raised its relationship with Vietnam from "Strategic Partnership" to "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership".
It was the first prime ministerial visit from India to Vietnam after Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit in 2001.
In a joint statement issued following that visit, both Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc "expressed satisfaction at three decades of bilateral cooperation in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes pursuant to the agreements signed by the two countries in 1986".
Friday's agreement is also important given that Vietnam is India's country coordinator for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), a region which is the focus of India's Act East Policy.
In November, India signed a civil nuclear deal with Japan during Modi's visit to Tokyo. The other countries with which India now has civil nuclear agreements include the US, Russia, Australia, Canada, France, Britain, South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Namibia and Argentina.
The new agreement on Cooperation in Peaceful use of Atomic Energy was signed by Sekhar Basu, Secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy, and Pham Cong Tac, the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Science and Technology here on Friday.
A parliamentary cooperation agreement was also signed between Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Ngan.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Air India and Vietjet Aviation Joint Stock Company for promotion of traffic between Vietnam and India and sharing of best practices in airline operation, ground handling procedure and management.
Another MoU was signed between India's Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) and Vietnam Electricity (EVN) on developing a partnership to jointly work in the area of energy efficiency.
In his meeting with Ngan on Friday, Modi also called for increased interactions between the parliaments of India and Vietnam and the institution of an exchange programme for young parliamentarians between the two countries.
"The Prime Minister recalled their earlier meeting in Hanoi during his visit to Vietnam in September 2016," Swarup said.
"He said that Ngan, as the first woman to head the National Assembly of Vietnam, is a source of inspiration to women across the world."
(With IANS inputs)