Amid rising security threats in the region in the wake of growing Chinese assertiveness, India and Vietnam have agreed to launch a bilateral maritime security dialogue and intensify collaboration in shaping a peaceful Indo-Pacific Region.

The decision to initiate the dialogue was announced by President Ram Nath Kovind in his address to the National Assembly of Vietnam in Hanoi on Tuesday. Kovind is the third world leader to address Vietnam’s parliament, a unique honour that underlined the growing importance of India in Hanoi’s foreign policy.

The first maritime dialogue will be held in early 2019. “India looks forward to enhanced bilateral cooperation in the maritime domain – for instance, through our first Bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue to be hosted by Vietnam in early 2019. Maritime security, piracy, and drug trafficking using the oceans are issues of common concern,” the Indian President said. He was confident that the programme of regular and friendly visits to each other’s ports by naval and coast guard ships would upgrade cooperation between India and Vietnam.

Placing India-Vietnam maritime dialogue in the historical context, he said, “we are both ancient maritime nations and are stakeholders in the commerce, security and stability of the Indo-Pacific Region. Above all, we share the same values.”

President Kovind underlined a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific Region, “of which the South China Sea is a critical component.”

“We share a vision of a rules-based order that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity, ensures freedom of navigation and over-flight, as well as unimpeded commerce. Our shared vision seeks peaceful resolution of disputes, with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in accordance with principles of international law, including those reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

Issues regarding maritime security cooperation and the evolving regional architecture also figured in wide-ranging discussions between President Kovind and his Vietnamese host, Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the President of Vietnam.

“We decided to deepen strategic partnership in all areas. Defence and security are important aspects of the India-Vietnam partnership,” said Trong. He said India appreciated India’s ‘Act East’ policy and India’s support for ASEAN’s centrality in the evolving regional architecture.