Visit to Vietnam very productive, useful: Ansari

On Board Special Aircraft: Terming his state visit to Vietnam as "very productive", Vice President Hamid Ansari on Thursday said India's ties with ASEAN countries are part of a well-considered Look East policy which has resulted in a ten-fold increase in trade with them in the last 12 years.

"Vietnam is and ASEAN is a part of a well-considered Look East policy of the Government of India which has been in place for some years now. Vietnam is an important element in it but the policy covers the entire ASEAN region. I think we are satisfied with the results," he told reporters while returning to Delhi.

Ansari on Thursday winded up a four-day state visit to Vietnam during which he discussed trade, cultural exchange, tourism- related issues with the South East Asian nation's top leaders.

He also advocated strengthening the strategic relationship that began between the two countries in 2007.

"In overall ASEAN framework in last 12 years or so, our trade with ASEAN has gone up by ten times, from USD 8 billion to USD 80 billion. Our investment in ASEAN is making good progress," Ansari said.

The Vice President, however, expressed concern over investments from Indian companies in Vietnam not coming up to expectations.

"Our investment in Vietnam are modest but not that modest. As more and more Indian companies discover the potential of the Vietnamese market, we will have more investments coming in (there)," he said.

Ansari said India will continue to invest in Vietnam in both political and economic terms.

Expressing satisfaction over his visit to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Ansari said the interactions were "very useful, very productive". "Discussions in Hanoi with Vietnamese leadership were very focused, very positive and impression I have is that we have reinforced the levels of relationship with Vietnam," the Vice President said.

India will continue to provide Vietnam whatever assistance it needs in capacity building within our "limitations and capabilities", he said.

India has already opened a line of credit to Vietnam.

Ansari expressed happiness with the progress made by the two countries in the oil and gas sector.

The Vice President said there is a lot of potential in the tourism sector of the two countries but rued that lack of direct air connectivity is affecting the sector. He said he had discussed the issue with the Vietnamese leadership.

"Our problem is connectivity. We don't have direct connectivity…Direct flights between the two countries are still a work in progress and we don't know when it will start. But the idea is very clear and if we have direct flights then it will give a boost to tourism. There is no question about it," he said.

Ansari said road connectivity between India, Mynamar and Thailand is also underway as part of a larger Asian road network and this will improve trade relations with ASEAN countries. The deadline for this project is 2016.

On the issue of cultural exchange between Hanoi and New Delhi, the Vice President said India plans to open a cultural centre in the Vietnamese capital by the end of this year.

Hailing the historic links between the two nations, Ansari said the "reciprocity of sentiments" between them is "noteworthy".

During Ansari's visit, the two sides signed an MoU on helping Hanoi in capacity building in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.

Vietnam expressed support to India's bid to become a member of an expanded UN Security Council.