The Indian Prime minister’s visit to Vietnam upgraded the relationship to comprehensive strategic partnership. It was the first visit of Indian prime minister to Vietnam after 15 years.
In the context of developments taking place in South China Sea and Sino-Indian bilateral tensions the visit acquires a greater significance. India and Vietnam had strong historical ties from the days of freedom struggle, Ho Chi Minh movement and then Prime Minister Vajpayee returned from china because china had attacked Vietnam in 1979.
The significance of Indo-Vietnam relationship is acquiring a strategic dimension now very strongly. The Vietnam will see the visit as a long awaited turning point in the relationship.
India upgraded the relationship tocomprehensive strategic partnership. Vietnam has this kind of relationship with only Russia and China. After the end of cold war countries have welcomed the possibility of establishing multi vector relationship with whole range of countries without it becoming zero-sum.
Strategic partnerships have become the vehicle for expanding relationships bilaterally with all the major countries without it becoming a problem in terms of affecting other countries. Foreign policy should have the flexibility to establish these long term strategic relationships.
Both countries have mutual interests in terms of developmental partnership and in terms of larger strategic issues that are emerging in the South China Sea, south East Asia and India is moving from lookEast towardsAct East. So Vietnam is a key player.
One significant outcome of the visit was rising of special line of credit of $500 million to Vietnam for acquiring defence equipments from India. In the last two years India has focused on strengthening Vietnamese defence needs.
Economic dimension seems to be proceeding slowly. It is important to India to push the economic dimension. There should be a comprehensive approach in both bilateral and multilateral platforms.
India has ties with Vietnam oil and gas industry. Of late china is objecting India’s activities in Vietnam which offered India 8 blocks for oil and gas exploration.
India has been supportive to Vietnam’s position in the maritime area. India is echoing the sentiments of most of the countries of the region. This is to upholdUNCLOS, and other international norms. Vietnam has concerns about Chinese building new islands in South China Sea.
India’s position on Arms Export
There are speculative reports that India would be transferring Brahmos supersonic missile to Vietnam, but India is not accepting it. Until now the Indian position has been that we do not export arms to countries for other than self defence Brahmos with its capacity is not intended for self defence.
This has a certain offensive aspect to it. Giving Brahmos missile to Vietnam would invite retaliatory actions from countries like china. We need to balance all the pros and cons because for India it is important to build comprehensive partnership with all countries in our national interest.
There are reports that china is supplying various weapon systems to Pakistan and even India should do the same by supplying weapons to Vietnam. There is a certain realistic logic to this and should be analysed in medium to long term perspective and not in short term perspective.
Our focus should be on developing India, Make in India, Clean India, and skill India. We need to focus on these areas. Entering the arms race, arms game and balance of power has its one consequence.
China’s role in South East Asia
China’s role in South East Asia is in the context of new emerging groups, new economic dynamics in the region; china is becoming a bigger player in the region. The G20 summit in china has clearly established China’s leading role as one of the major global players.
The countries in south Asia have very strong relation with china.
China is talking about mutual win – win partnership, inclusion, integrated networks and innovation. India has to get into this discourse. It helps in establishing itself in the changing scenario.
A very strong information network among the countries affected by terrorism needs to be fashioned.