President Kovind to visit Vietnam, Australia; MEA says focus on growing engagement in Indo-Pacific region

File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

WION Delhi, India Nov 17, 2018, 12.10 PM (IST) Siddhant Sibal

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind will be going to Vietnam and Australia from November 18th to November 24th. Announcing the visit, secretary east Vijay Thakur Singh said, "the visit is part of India’s continuing and growing engagement with the countries in the Indo-Pacific region under its 'Act East' Policy."

This is the 7th state visit by President Kovind since taking over last year. This is also for the first time the president will be travelling to the east of India.

Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the President of India said this visit "will take him to the heart of Indo-pacific region" and "after this visit, he would have visited 16 countries and spanned the Indian ocean". President Kovind has been to Africa many times including his visits to Europe and South America.

The visit is happening when the focus is growing on the Indo Pacific region. During the recent 13th East Asia Summit, PM Modi, along with the US, had focused on the Indo Pacific with ASEAN centrality.

The second meet of Quad grouping -- US, Japan, Australia and India-- this year, which took place in 15th November, had a special emphasis on it with the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement saying, "participants reaffirmed the ASEAN centrality as the cornerstone of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific." The MEA futher added, "they agreed to partner with other countries and forums in the region to promote free, open, rules-based and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific that fosters trust and confidence."

Vietnam visit from 18-20 November

On the first leg of his two-nation tour, the President will visit Vietnam from 18-20 November. This is the first visit by the Indian president to any ASEAN country. President Kovind will address the national assembly of Vietnam. Chinese President Xi Jinping is the only foreign leader who has addressed the Vietnamese national assembly until now.

India and Vietnam have a comprehensive strategic partnership. Vietnam was the country coordinator for India ASEAN and under the country, all 10 heads of ASEAN countries participated in the Republic Day parade. 

Speaking to WION, Vietnam's envoy to Delhi Pham Sanh Chau said, "Vietnam wants to treat the Indian president as a special guest in order to express our sincere gratitude to Indian leaders and friends for their support to our country during the national struggle, national independence and reunification."

India also has robust defence ties with Vietnam with reports suggesting Hanoi might be in talks with Delhi to get BrahMos missiles.

Australia visit from 21-24 November 

On the second leg of his visit, President Kovind will pay a state visit to Australia from 21-24 November 2018. He will be visiting Sydney and Melbourne. This would be the first ever visit of the President of India to Australia.

Canberra has supported India's entry into the Wassenaar arrangement, Australia Group and Missile Technology Control Regime. The country supports India's bid for nuclear suppliers group. Bilateral trade between India and Australia stands at $19.7 billion and the country hosts a large Indian diaspora.