Analysing India’s External Affairs Minister visit to South East Asia

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with the President of Senate of Cambodia Say Chhum

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj unveiled a statue of the Father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, in the Indian Embassy in the city of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. This was the first stop of her four-day tour consisting of two Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam and Cambodia – which are widely considered to be the key members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Mahatma Gandhi’s final resting place – Rajghat in New Delhi – was visited by Tran Dai Quang, the President of Vietnam in March of this year. The Ministry of External Affairs’ Spokesperson Ravish Kumar posted a message regarding the unveiling on Twitter that said:

Paying respect to the Father of the Nation! EAM @SushmaSwaraj unveiled the bust of Mahatma Gandhi in the Chancery building at the Embassy of India in Hanoi.

At this event, Sushma Swaraj praised the Indian community in Vietnam for playing a key role in strengthening the bonds between the people of both nations. A tweet said:

Hailing the role played by the Indian community in Vietnam in consolidating cultural connect between India and Vietnam! EAM @SushmaSwaraj praised the Indian Diaspora in Vietnam for strengthening people to people bond between two nations.

The main objective of this tour is to strengthen the bonds as well as India’s strategic cooperation with both, Vietnam and Cambodia. The EAM was received by her counterpart – the EAM of Vietnam – Pham Binh Minh at the Vietnamese Government’s guest house. The official account of the Indian Embassy on Twitter posted:

Deepening our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership! EAM @SushmaSwaraj and Foreign Minister of Vietnam Pham Binh Minh led delegation level talks where trade, investment, maritime and defence cooperation were discussed.

Swaraj held extensive talks with Minh that discussed everything from trade, investment, maritime to defence cooperation. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc inaugurated the 3rd edition of the Indian Ocean Conference along with Swaraj on Monday. While addressing the conference, Swaraj said, “India and Vietnam are connected not only by the common waters but also by a shared vision for peace and prosperity. Hanoi is, therefore, a particularly appropriate setting to discuss developments in the Indian Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region.”

She also added that both the countries had agreed to fortify cooperation in the maritime field which consists of anti-piracy, security of sea lanes and exchange of white shipping information. “We also agreed on the importance of the early conclusion of an ASEAN-India Maritime Transport Cooperation Agreement. In this context, we intend to accelerate the establishment of direct shipping routes between the seaports of India and Vietnam.” While she was there, she also took part in a camp in the province of PhuTho where they saw common people benefitting from the Jaipur foot. Kumar tweeted:

Together with you when you take those small steps! EAM @SushmaSwaraj participated in the Jaipur foot camp and encouraged a girl to walk with the newly fitted artificial limb. 500 Vietnamese beneficiaries were present at the Camp organised in the PhuTho province of Vietnam.

She additionally co-chaired the 16th meeting of the Joint Commission along with the Vietnamese foreign minister.

Next, she went on to visit Cambodia to conclude her tour, where she was received by our Ambassador to Cambodia, Manika Jain as well as the nation’s respective EAM, PrakSokhon. She covered a wide range of issues related to bilateral as well as mutual interests for both nations with Sokhon, and by extension, their Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Kumar tweeted: The two ministers discussed bilateral, multilateral and important International level issues today at delegation level talks at MOFA. Both nations have enjoyed diplomatic – to the point of friendly – relations for a while, formally since 1952. Cambodia was also one of the key supporters of India becoming a permanent member of the United Nations’ Security Council. Swaraj also called on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and President of the Senate Say Chhum.

This tour is being seen as an effort to balance out China’s growing influence in the Southeast Asian province.



*Neha Hardikar is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti

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