Monday, January 5, 2015

India-Vietnam Defence Relations and Strengthening of Strategic Partnership

Maj Gen (Retd.) P K Chakravorty

Introduction

India and Vietnam have been friends from time immemorial. The year 2014 was a landmark in Indo-Vietnam strategic partnership. The Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi views Vietnam as an essential partner of its Act East policy. The new establishment has intensified the strategic partnership signed between the two countries in 2007. The Indian President Mr Pranab Mukherjee visited Vietnam from 14 to 17 September 2014. This was followed by the visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Mr Nguyen Tan Dung to India from 27 to 28 October 2014. During the visit our Prime Minister Narender Modi stated that that India had intensified engagement with Asia Pacific region because it was critical to India’s future. To amplify the point the Prime Minister observed that, “Our defence cooperation with Vietnam is among our most important. India remains committed to the modernisation of Vietnam’s defence and security forces. This will include expansion of our training programme, joint exercises and cooperation in defence equipment. We will quickly operationalise the 100 million dollars Line of Credit that will enable Vietnam to acquire naval vessels from India. We have also agreed to enhance cooperation in the fields of Counter terrorism. In private discussions the two Prime Ministers agreed to work with Japan in a trilateral format to coordinate positions on security and economic policies. The Joint Statement issued by the two Prime Ministers included important commitments in five areas: defence, South China Sea, energy, space, trade and investment.

Visit of our Chief of Army Staff

The visit of our Chief of Army Staff, General Dalbir Singh Suhag to Vietnam took place from 17 to20 December 2014. The date of the visit was extremely well calibrated as the Vietnamese People’s Army completed 70 years since it was raised in 1944. As India has supported Vietnam consistently in its various conflicts the timing of the visit struck a friendly chord.

Senior Lieutenant General Do Ba Ty, Chief of General Staff of The Vietnamese People’s Army and Deputy Minister of National Defence had discussions with the Chief of Army Staff on 17 December 2014. The Chief of General Staff laid stress on the fine development of defence ties between the two countries. He was confident that the visit would contribute to enhancing friendship, mutual understanding and trust between the two Armies. Our Chief of Army Staff briefed the Vietnamese Chief of General Staff on the outcome of his discussions with other officials and also wished to enhance the defence cooperation in times to come.

Our Chief had detailed discussions with Lieutenant General Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Deputy Chief of General Staff. At the discussions both sides reviewed the results of cooperation of the two Armies and discussed measures to further strengthen cooperation. Both Generals agreed to underscore cooperation in exchange of delegations, education, training, information exchange and peace keeping operations.

The Chief also was given a reception by Mr Le Hoang Quan, Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Committee. The Chairman said he had granted licences to 30 Indian companies and direct flights have begun between the two countries. General Suhag affirmed the relationship between the two countries and is ready to assist Vietnam in the fields of training, maintaining and repairing equipment. He emphasised that political stability in the region will help the two countries develop economically and serve the best interests of maintaining peace and order in the region and in the world.

Way Ahead

General Dalbir Singh Suhag is the first Chief of Army Staff who has visited Vietnam after signing of the strategic partnership in 2009. It is a land mark visit as it would witness great improvements in the field of training and exercises. While Vietnamese officers are attending military courses in India it would be beneficial for Indian Army to undergo Jungle warfare training in Vietnam. It is reported that the Indian Army has started training Vietnamese officers in the English language in Vietnam. It would be interesting to have joint exercises between the two Armies at platoon and company level between the two countries.

Cooperation between the Armed Forces of two countries would automatically lead to better relationship between the two countries as the Vietnam People’s Army is closely linked to the Communist Party which calls the shots in Vietnam. The visit by an Indian Chief of Army Staff has a ripple effect with regard to strengthening of relations between the two countries.

There are other areas which India needs to learn from Vietnam. Vietnam has settled the land border with China and currently there is peace and tranquillity all along the land border. Close association with the Vietnamese will enable our Army to gather inputs regarding dealing with the Chinese. Vietnam has deep knowledge of the People’s Liberation Army of China and close interactions will gradually assist us in gaining information on micro issues of the PLA. All this would be protracted but the Indian Army would gain immensely from these interactions.

It is interesting to note the training of Vietnamese submariners by the Indian Navy has been greatly appreciated by the Vietnamese. The Indian Air Force has also trained their Sukhoi pilots and this has resulted in the Vietnamese Air Force mastering the art of manoeuvring with the Sukhois. India must seriously consider cooperation in the field of missiles and outer space to enable Vietnam to strengthen this field.

Conclusion

The Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag’s visit to Vietnam was successful and this would help the two countries in improving their strategic partnership. Vietnam is the strongest pillar of our Act East policy. There is a need to have an annual bilateral visits of high level military delegations composed of the three services to further strengthen our mil-to-mil relationship which has become an imperative in view of unfolding strategic scenario in the Indo-Pacific.

Published Date: 5th January 2015, Image Source: http://www.vietnambreakingnews.com

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