Strengthening cooperation in the key areas of nuclear, defence and trade will be high on the agenda when Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang arrives in India on a three-day visit later this week. This will be Tran`s first visit to India as president.

He will be accompanied by an 18-member delegation, including Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh as well as the ministers for trade and industry and planning and investment, said the Vietnamese envoy to India, Ton Sinh Thanh.

The two sides are likely to sign memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in the areas of nuclear energy, agriculture and trade and investment during the visit beginning March 2, the envoy told reporters.

The issue of the South China Sea, where China has been showing increasing assertiveness, will also be discussed, the envoy said in response to a question.

On arriving in India, Tran will first visit the Buddhist religious site Bodh Gaya in Bihar on March 2. The next day, he will hold delegation level talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On March 4, the Vietnamese president will deliver an address, which will be an important policy statement, the envoy said.

Modi had visited Vietnam in 2016, when the two countries agreed to elevate their ‘strategic partnership’ to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’.

The talks will also focus on measures to further deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership, Ton said.

The relations between India and Vietnam are politically quite strong.

We have a lot of exchanges between highest ranking leaders. We have very strong and very effective defence cooperation but we still have many other areas to be exploited for cooperation, he added.

Defence has been a key element of the ties between India and Vietnam and the two countries have very strong and very effective defence cooperation, he said.

Leaders of the two countries will discuss how to deepen cooperation in this area, especially on how to implement and realise the credit line on defence that India has announced for Vietnam, Ton said.

Modi had announced a grant of USD 5 million for the construction of an Army Software Park at the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang during his visit to the country. A Line of Credit of USD 100 million is already being used for eight off-shore patrol vessels to Vietnam.

The armies of the two countries, for the first time, conducted joint military exercise last month. Vietnam buys defence equipment for navy and air force.

Ton, however, parried questions on the Brahmos deal. Vietnam has shown an interest in buying the Brahmos supersonic missile from India.

A business delegation of 65 businessmen from 34 Vietnamese companies will also visit India. Agreements related to the building of a coal terminal in Vietnam and the joint development of a port will also be signed between Indian and Vietnamese companies, officials said.

Last year, trade volume reached USD 7.6 billion, an increase of 40 per cent from the previous year.

Vietnam exports a lot of manufacturing products to India, including mobile phones, machineries and computers. India exports machineries, textile materials, sea food and medicines to Vietnam.

Ton said the trade volume between the two sides has not reached the expected level and investments from India in Vietnam are still very low.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was in Delhi in January as chief guest during the Republic Day parade along with nine other leaders from ASEAN countries.