NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi’s to visit Vietnam on September 3 enroute to China for the G-20 Summit signaling India’s growing strategic presence in South East Asia in Beijing’s periphery. Delhi is expected to offer additional support to Hanoi’s military establishment, including finance and training, assistance to space sector, greater investments besides acquiring possible stakes in supplementary hydrocarbon blocks.
While the highlight of PM’s day-long visit will be signing of contract for supply of four patrol boats to Vietnamese military under the $100 -million line of credit that was extended during its PM’s India visit in October 2014, India could offer additional financial support in building capacity of Hanoi’s military establishment and may increase quota for training of armed forces personnel and undertake further repair and maintenance of defence hardware, hinted persons familiar with the developments. India’s support to Vietnam’s defence sector is aimed at augmenting capacity of the Southeast Asian nation’s military establishment.
Vietnam the current country coordinator for India in the ASEAN — has an expanding strategic partnership with India in the region in more than one way. Today, Hanoi besides Singapore is among the two top strategic partners in ASEAN. While the growing defence partnership — based on common Russian military platform — has captured the popular imagination, maritime and cyber security covers the other areas of security cooperation, hinted official sources. A key outcome of the visit could be a document on cyber security partnership.
Built on the bonhomie of the Cold War era when India extended emotional and moral support to the forces fighting American military, Delhi and Hanoi have drawn closer to each other over the past decade amid China’s growing aggression and ambitions in SE Asia including South China Sea (SCS) region. That he chose to visit Vietnam, a claimant in SCS, ahead of China and later Laos for East and ASEAN Summits itself has a symbolic significance.
Experts of India-Vietnam affairs, however, point out that both sides prefer to keep key strands of the strategic partnership under wraps to avoid reaction from Beijing. While India is not militarily active in South China Sea (SCS) region and advocates peaceful resolution, Delhi has asserted that it favours rules based global order based on UNCLOS and against unilateral actions after the Arbitration Court in Hague on July 12 dismissed Beijing’s historical claims in SCS in a case vis a vis Philippines.
India has been advocating Freedom of Navigation in international waters including SCS — key sea lane of communication for substantial part of India’s global trade. It may be recalled Vietnam is the only country in the region whose military has experience of fighting China in late 1970s, 1980s and again in mid 1990s over territorial matters including claims in SCS.