NEW DELHI -- India and Vietnam on Saturday pledged to jointly work for an "independent, open and prosperous" Indo-Pacific region.
In using these words, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang were sending a message to an increasingly assertive China.
Modi and Tran also discussed ways to further boost defense and maritime cooperation, and signed cooperation pacts involving atomic energy, trade and agriculture.
Tran is in India for a three-day state visit.
He and Modi discussed the entire gamut of bilateral ties, including steps to further strengthen their countries' comprehensive strategic partnership in defense and security, science and technology, tourism, oil and gas as well as other areas.
Regional and global issues of mutual interest also figured during the meeting.
"We will jointly work for an independent, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where there is respect for sovereignty and international law, and differences are resolved through dialogue," Modi said during a joint media appearance with Tran.
Modi said the two countries are fully committed to bringing forward their maritime ties and to an "open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture."
For his part, Tran said he and Modi had "sincere, open and candid" talks on bilateral relations as well as on regional and global issues of mutual interest. The two sides, he added, would cooperate in addressing regional security challenges, including those relating to cyber- and maritime security.
The two leaders' remarks come as China is making its presence felt more in the South China Sea, paying little heed to territorial disputes it has in the body of water with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations.
Modi called defense and security cooperation a pillar of strong Indo-Vietnamese ties. He said the two countries have decided to explore possibilities of co-production and transfer of technology in this context.
The prime minister said trade between the two countries has grown from $6 billion to over $10 billion in the past five years. "In our discussions today," Modi said, "we agreed to further strengthen our trade and investment ties, including in fields such as renewable energy, agriculture, textiles, and oil and gas."
Modi also said Vietnam has a "key role" to play in India's Act East policy, aimed at strengthening cooperation with Southeast Asia.
India-Vietnam relations, he said, are not only important for the two countries but also for the peace and security of the region.