Asia's Game of Thrones
India Offers Missiles to Vietnam

India may be ready to sell a missile system to Vietnam as both countries seek to balance against China, the Times of India reports:

India is now actively discussing the possible sale of the indigenously developed Akash surface-to-air missile systems to Vietnam, even as the two countries steadily crank up their bilateral military ties with a watchful eye on a confrontational China in the Asia-Pacific region. […]

Sources say the discussions under way with Vietnam on the Akash area defence missiles, which have an interception range of 25-km against hostile aircraft, helicopters and drones, come after India earlier offered BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and Varunastra anti-submarine torpedoes to the country.

India, of course, will also begin training Vietnamese fighter pilots on its Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets from this year, much like it has been tutoring sailors from that country on the intricate art of operating Kilo-class submarines for the last three years, as reported earlier by TOI.

India is continuing to place big bets on Vietnam as both countries confront an increasingly aggressive China. The missile talks follow on a year of notably heightened cooperation between New Delhi and Hanoi. In September, the two countries upgraded their relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” as India offered Vietnam a $500 million line of credit for greater defense engagement. India is also building a satellite center in Vietnam that could allow Hanoi to spy on China’s activity in the South China Sea.

The larger trend here is not only that Asian countries are demonstrably balancing against a rising China, but that India is increasingly committing itself to deterring Beijing. In the past, India has enjoyed a flexible position on the world stage by balancing friendly relations with China, Japan, and the United States. But as Beijing has stepped up its ventures into the Indian Ocean, India has made a point of pushing back by courting Chinese neighbors like Vietnam and Japan and tacitly supporting the verdict against China’s claims in the South China Sea. India may remain officially non-aligned, but under Modi its foreign policy is gradually shifting to deal with the growing threat from Beijing.

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