Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang says he’s looking forward to strengthening defence and trade ties with India during his visit to India from March 2-4.
Quang’s trip will begin on Friday at the pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya in Bihar. He’s slated to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday.
‘Defence and security have been the effective strategic areas of cooperation,’ Quang told The Times of India in an interview. ‘India has actively supported Viet Nam in training, capacity building, defence technology transfer and defence credit.’
India has given Vietnam a $500 million line of credit to buy its military gear, though it’s not clear how much Delhi has to offer. According to Manu Pubby of ThePrint, ‘India is already working on new patrol boats for Vietnam as well as a refit of its older Petya-class warships with modern equipment.’
There have also been several reports about India considering sales of the Brahmos cruise missile to Vietnam, though these efforts may be stalled. For one, India would need a clearance from its Russian co-developer NPO Mashinostroyenia, which might be looking to sell Vietnam a similar missile of its own. Two, India needs to be sure the sale does not run afoul of the Missile Technology Control Regine (MTCR), which it took some trouble to join in 2016.
However, if India can overcome these challenges, the sale of the hard-to-intercept supersonic cruise missile would send a powerful signal to China and potentially provide Vietnam’s small navy a powerful deterrent in its littoral waters.
Besides defence cooperation, Quang was also optimistic about economic ties. ‘India continued to be among Vietnam’s top ten largest trading partners as the bilateral trade turnover has increased 16% per annum on average in the past decade,’ he said.
The two sides are expected to sign an agreement on increasing the capacity of a port in Nghe An province to 5 million tonnes. India and Vietnam are also to ink a civilian nuclear pact.
In his interview with The Times of India, Quang acknowledged the importance of the strategic convergence between the two countries. ‘Viet Nam and ASEAN will work closely with India in all areas to realize our common goals of a bright future for the Indo-Asia-Pacific,’ he said.
While ASEAN nations remain divided over how to deal with the China’s claims in the South China Sea, Vietnam has shown willingness to stand up to Beijing. As China makes major inroads into India’s South Asian backyard, Delhi will look to pay back Beijing in its own coin.