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President reaches Vietnam on state visit

President reaches Vietnam on state visit

Hanoi: Indian President Pranab Mukherjee arrived here Sunday on a four-day state visit to Vietnam during which an agreement will be signed on scouting for oil and gas in the South China Sea.

Another agreement will be on direct air services between the two countries.

Mukherjee's delegation included Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and six MPs, including Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party, K.V. Thomas of the Congress and Pervesh Verma of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Ahead of the visit, the president termed Vietnam an "important pillar" in India's Look East policy and said he hoped to strengthen this partnership during his visit.

In an interview to Vietnamese News Agency in New Delhi on the eve of his departure, he said he saw India and Vietnam as partners, "contributing to peace, prosperity and stability in the wider region".

Crediting Jawaharlal Nehru and Ho Chi Minh for laying the foundation of friendship between the two countries, he said bilateral ties "have never been better than what they are today".

But there was still immense potential to develop the cooperation, he said.

The president is carrying a sapling of the holy Bodhi tree from Bodh Gaya in Bihar as a gift.

Mukherjee and his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang will plant the sapling at the presidential palace here.

Besides the air services agreement between Jet Airways and Air Vietnam, the visit would also see OVL, the overseas arm of oil major ONGC, and Petro Vietnam ink an agreement on two additional blocks off Vietnam.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her visit to Vietnam last month, had stressed that India considers Vietnam one of the key pillars in its Look East policy.

Mukherjee last visited Vietnam in May 2011 when he was the Indian finance minister for the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank.

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