India's Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam

India enters into strategic partnership with Vietnam in order to extend India’s outreach in South China Sea. With rising tensions with China everywhere, new alliances are being stitched and existing alliances are being strengthened. India-Vietnam equation is no different than any. In fact, the rapid pace with which both the countries are trying to present a common front for both defence as well as trade relations hints at even closer ties in the future.

India's Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam
India’s Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam

Security and Growth in the Indo-Pacific region

India Vietnam bilateral relations are diverse and multifaceted. The defence and strategic partnership is firmly shaping up new equation. India Vietnam enjoys strong  cultural and economic relationships dating back to 2nd century. India supported Vietnam’s independence from France, opposed American involvement in the Vietnam war, and supported unification of Vietnam. Although minor dispute existed due to Vietnam’s hostile relations with China. India’s act east policy established cooperative strategic partnership in 21st century. India and Vietnam are exploring defence relations being natural friends. Vietnam was part of Milan, the multinational Naval exercise held in 2014.

India's Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam
India’s Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam

In 2016 India provided $100 million credit line allowing Vietnam to buy defence equipment from India. For regular co-operation on exchange of intelligence , jungle warfare, Vietnamese pilots training, grant of $5 million for construction of an Army software park has changed India’s role as security provider. Vietnam acknowledges China’s pressure campaign in South China Sea has deep concerns for Indian economic and commercial ties to Vietnam.

India's Outreach in South China Sea
India’s Outreach in South China Sea

Beyond this, India has been training the Vietnamese military in operating its Russian-built Kilo-class submarines and SU-30 fighter jets. Supply of military spares, maintenance of hardware, and ship visits are also other important facets of the defense cooperation. The two sides have also signed an MoU for Coast Guard-to-Coast Guard collaboration.

Chinese Aggression over Hoang Sa archipelago

On 2-April 2020, Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel. “The Chinese vessel committed an act that violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago and threatened the lives and damaged the property and legitimate interests of Vietnamese fishermen.” The incident marks the second time in less than a year a Vietnamese fishing vessel has been reportedly sunk by a Chinese vessel near the China-controlled Paracels. The incident marks the second time in less than a year a Vietnamese fishing vessel has been reportedly sunk by a Chinese vessel near the China-controlled Paracels.

Vietnam moving into Alliance with India as well as US

Responding to China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, Vietnam has called on India to play a more proactive role in Southeast Asia.

Geostrategically India and Vietnam shared apprehension of an aggressive China claiming South China Sea as its territory. Vietnam has begun signalling that it would move definitely into Washington’s orbit. The US and Vietnam have already built close strategic ties. The defence white paper make frank and accurate assessments about China’s aggressive behavior toward Vietnam in south China sea for maritime sovereignty.  The popular consensus in Vietnam considers china as geopolitical rival since millennia. China and Vietnam fought a prolonged border war from 1979 to 1990.

Data showing era and years of Chinese Invasion of Vietnam starting from 111 B.C.
Data showing era and years of Chinese Invasion of Vietnam starting from 111 B.C.

Vietnamese are nationalistic similar to Indians. India understands Spratly islands belong to Vietnam.

Strategic Partnership with Vietnam : Step forward to spread India's Outreach in South China Sea
Strategic Partnership with Vietnam : Step forward to spread India’s Outreach in South China Sea

Covid-19 has left bitter memories in Vietnam and Chinese  relationship. Deep distrust is escalating against china in public health officials. Vietnam was the first country to halt flights from China and Macau. Imports from Vietnam in China decreased to 5499900 USD THO in April from 6443500 USD THO in March of 2020 (Source: tradingeconomics.com).

Char showing declining Imports in Vietnam from China
Char showing declining Imports in Vietnam from China

According to statistics from the General Department of Vietnam Customs, the two-way trade between Vietnam and India exceeded US$2.34 billion in the first three months of 2020. Of these, the export turnover of Vietnam hit more than $1.39 billion and imports from India touched $1.05 billion. Trade war between two economic giants make India and Vietnam hot topic for manufacturers.

India Vietnam relations are deep rooted in history. We can mutually grow and contribute to new direction, momentum for regional peace and prosperity. Exchange of information in maritime domain and hydrographic co-operation can play an assertive role in Indo-pacific region. Both can use atomic energy for peaceful purposes on the basis of respect for national sovereignty and international law. Centre for Satellite Tracking and Data Reception plays a vital role in 2020. India will rise up as another giant with strategic partner Vietnam.

High level talks between India and Vietnam

Recently in February 2020, Vice President of Vietnam Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh met Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

India's Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam . Vice President of Vietnam Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh met Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu
India’s Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam . Vice President of Vietnam Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh met Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu

Vietnamese President Quang with PM Modi and President Kovind

India's Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam . Vietnamese President Quang with PM Modi and President Kovind
India’s Outreach in South China Sea: Strategic Partnership with Vietnam . Vietnamese President Quang with PM Modi and President Kovind

Points to Ponder

It is the right time that a Grand Alliance between all the nations in South Asia takes place to jointly fight the Chinese hegemony and Aggression. India being the nearest country for South China Sea countries, can export its Defense hardware to South China Sea countries to prepare them jointly fight the Imperialist Fascist Communist China’s aggression. India can strengthen the Naval as well as Air defence capabilities of Vietnam, supply them missiles.

A pledge must be made to boycott Chinese Imports and each country in the alliance help each other in setting up manufacturing units and transfer of technology that the other countries lack. Focus should be on Mobile Phone and Laptops and computer chip manufacturing to end dependence on China for ever.

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