The big picture in changing Indo-Asia-Pacific region: Opportunities and challenges for Vietnam and S

Tuesday, 20 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A public lecture on ‘The Big Picture in the Changing Indo-Asia -Pacific Region: Opportunities and Challenges for Vietnam and Sri Lanka’ was delivered by Ton Sinh Thanh, the Ambassador of Vietnam in Sri Lanka at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) last week. Ton Sinh Thanh stated that economic development and integration, which has led to more interdependence, has created more opportunities for peace and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The Ambassador defined the Indo-Asia-Pacific region as the area covering both the Indian Ocean region and the Asia Pacific region. He said that the recent developments have brought the region to prominence in international politics in recent years. Despite the economic downturn in Europe and North America, Indo-Asia-Pacific countries have experienced economic growth closer to double digits. Therefore, this region had become the agent of world economic recovery. Meanwhile, new economic partnerships are being created in the region which also aids economic growth. The gap between the West and East is being narrowed rapidly. This development is creating new markets and sources of foreign direct investments (FDIs) for smaller countries like Sri Lanka and Vietnam, he noted. However, Ambassador Thanh acknowledged that countries in the region were facing several challenges. He said that in addition to the traditional challenges of poverty and national security, smaller countries face other threats. One is the likelihood of big powers using internal differences in small countries to interfere in internal matters. Also, big power rivalries will affect smaller countries, over which the latter would have little influence. He also pointed out that the absence of a joint security mechanism in the region was a challenge. Thanh also commented on the maritime boundary disputes involving Vietnam, China and other parties. Vietnam, similar to Sri Lanka, follows a non-aligned foreign policy. Despite the territorial issues, China is Vietnam’s main trade partner, followed by the United States. The Ambassador added that Vietnam and Sri Lanka have almost the same destiny, enjoy the same opportunities and face the same challenges. This is the first reason for the two nations to be bound together. After decades of fast development, Vietnam now has accumulated some experience and has become a big market that Sri Lanka should not ignore. Vietnam can also serve as a gateway for Sri Lanka to tap into the ASEAN market. While Vietnam and Sri Lanka have enjoyed a good bilateral relationship, there are many areas for further cooperation between the two countries. For example, Vietnam is now carrying out a project of technical assistance in aquaculture development in Northern Province. Trade is another promising area. From 2009 to 2012, bilateral trade between the two countries grew by 165%. In conclusion, the Ambassador noted that cooperation among nations on both bilateral and multilateral bases is essential to face the future challenges. In this context, cooperation, mutual support and assistance between Vietnam and Sri Lanka are important. The lecture was followed by an interactive question and answer session.