This week India announced plans to train Vietnamese sailors, a clear sign of strengthening military cooperation between the two countries. The announcement is also a sign that the coalition of Asian nations seeking to cooperatively balance a rising and aggressive China is growing stronger.Defense News reports:
Like India, Vietnam has fought with China and is fast emerging as an economic power in the region, said an Indian Navy official, who said New Delhi should aid Vietnam in any way it can….A diplomat from the Vietnamese Embassy here said defense cooperation is a pillar of strategic partnership between the two countries, which he said will increase further to include joint development of defense projects but declined to specify details.India will train Vietnamese sailors to operate submarines and to engage in underwater warfare, said the Indian Navy source, adding that the training would take place on a Russian-made Kilo sub.India has also decided to give a $100 million credit line to Vietnam to buy military equipment, including offshore patrol vessels, an Indian Defence Ministry source said, but a deal hasn’t been formalized.
India and Vietnam’s warming ties aren’t limited to the military. In 2011, Vietnam offered India the right to explore for oil in several areas of the South China Sea that Vietnam administers but China also claims. Beijing expressed displeasure by (allegedly) buzzing an Indian warship in the area and by pressuring companies not to provide equipment that would be used to explore for oil in the South China Sea.India and Vietnam’s growing ties received a thumbs-up in Japan. In an op-ed in the Japan Times, an Indian researcher writes:
New Delhi’s foremost interest in Vietnam, though, is in the defense realm. It wants to build relations with states like Vietnam that can act as pressure points against China. With this in mind, it has been helping Hanoi to beef up its naval and air capabilities. Given that Vietnam and India use similar Russian and former Soviet defense platforms, New Delhi could easily offer defense technologies to Hanoi. Talks are ongoing for India to sell the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture. Such arms could allow Vietnam to project regional power and improve its deterrence against China.
At the Vietnam National History Museum in Hanoi, many of the maps and monuments that line the halls commemorate Vietnam’s resistance over the centuries to its much larger neighbor to the north. Historically, Vietnamese leaders emphasize their role as protectors of the nation from outside aggressors, whether it be France, the US, or, most often, China, which has invaded its smaller southern neighbor almost two dozen times. The struggle for ownership of islands and resources in the South China Sea is the modern manifestation of that centuries-old battle. But Vietnam is by far the weaker of the two, and because of that is forced to look around for friends. And who could be a better friend than India, with which Vietnam shares deep cultural ties, parallel security concerns, and promising prospects for enhanced bilateral trade in everything from rice to missiles.