Indo Vietnam cooperation


Regular Member
Jul 4, 2009
India's Ostpolitik involving the ASEAN and the ‘‘rimland’’ states farther afield — like Japan and South Korea — has been a success in great part because of naval diplomacy.

Indian naval flotillas steaming into Asian ports, dropping anchor at Limpopo to showcase Indian designed missile destroyers, holding annual joint exercises in the Andaman Sea with the smaller littoral navies, exercising offshore during extended ‘‘goodwill’’ tours with the host country’s naval vessels and, generally, establishing a presence in proximal as well as distant seas constantly reminds these states of India’s strategic importance.

The legendary Singapore leader Lee Kwan Yew referred to India and China as the two wings of a giant airplane. Without either of them, Asia, he implied, could not fly.

What he tactfully left unsaid, but most Asian countries on China’s periphery believe, is that their security depends on the emergence of a militarily strong India as counterweight — because, notwithstanding its security commitments, in a crisis the United States can always choose to withdraw behind the moat of the Pacific Ocean.

The pillars of an obvious and enduring Indian security architecture, if only the Indian government had the wit to envision it, are Israel and a Trucial State, like Oman, in the west and, in the east, ASEAN and Vietnam in China’s ‘‘soft underbelly’’, and Taiwan and Japan on the Chinese flank.

Beijing may be apprehensive of a resurgent Japan but, of all the states on its border, it is most respectful of a militarily scrappy Vietnam, which prides itself on successfully fighting off the Chinese hegemon for ‘‘a thousand years’’. And most recently in 1979 gave the invading Chinese armies a bloody nose, which compelled Deng Xiaoping to do the prudent thing — speedily declare victory and get the hell out!

BY cultivating a resolute Vietnam as a close regional ally and security partner in the manner China has done Pakistan, India can pay Beijing back in the same coin.

China has strategically discomfited India and sought to ‘‘contain’’ it to south Asia by arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons and missiles. Militarily to focus on Pakistan — the Chinese cat’s paw — as India has done is unwise. The cat can be more effectively dealt with by enabling Vietnam — a smaller but spirited tomcat — to rise militarily as a consequential state in China’s immediate neighbourhood.

In the short term, this should reasonably be the prime Indian strategic objective.

An opportunity will arise on October 3, when a defence delegation led by Lt General Nguyen Thinh, head of the Vietnamese Defence Research Centre — the counterpart of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation — begins its Indian trip. General Thinh is expected to ask for Indian help and technical assistance in acquiring a missile production capability.

The problem is the Vietnamese want the Brahmos cruise missile, with which they promise to keep the Chinese Navy on the defensive in the South China Sea and the approaches to the Malacca Straits. This is an esteemable mission. The Indian government, acting sensibly, should help Vietnam achieve it.

But the Brahmos, entering production stage, will have to be first inducted in goodly numbers in the Indian order-of-battle before a surplus can be generated for friendly states. And, in any case, technology transfer may be infeasible, at least initially.

BUT there is the proven short-range Prithvi missile, with impressive accuracy, that India can part with because, with the family of Agni missiles in the fray, it has become redundant.

The Prithvi in the arsenal highlights the Indian nuclear deterrent’s limited reach and clout and is something of an embarrassment. And deployed on the western border with Pakistan, it is destabilising. It can be give to the Vietnamese without in any way weakening the country’s security.

Moreover, the Integrated Defence Staff, which favours it over the Brahmos even in naval missions, can pass on advice for using the Prithvi, other than in land-based operations, in the sea-surface sanitising mode the Vietnamese envisage. Further, the transaction for the sub-300 km range Prithvi is permissible under the Missile Technology Control Regime.

In exchange for the conventional warheaded Prithvi now and the promise of more advanced missiles and other such strategic cooperation in the future, Hanoi should be persuaded to allow the Indian Navy a basing option in Cam Ranh Bay, unarguably the finest natural deep water harbour in Asia, to match the planned Chinese naval presence in Gwadar on the Baluchistan coast. This, in turn, can be bottled up by the IAF active out of the former RAF base at Gan, leased from the Maldives government.

BUT Cam Ranh Bay is a heady attraction for the United States and China as well. Vietnam has turned down such approaches essentially because it distrusts them. In the past, when the Indian Navy requested access to Cam Ranh Bay, the Vietnamese pleaded this would upset the big powers. However, the offer of missiles and other such strategic cooperation should prevail over Vietnam’s inhibitions.

The crucial question is: has the MEA the imagination to push this deal? Burdened by its pusillanimous take on diplomacy, which pooh-poohs military means of furthering national interest, for instance, it stopped the sale of second-hand corvettes and fast patrol craft to Mauritius and the Seychelles, forcing the navy to gift these in order to maintain goodwill.

Worse, the MEA seems a laggard in strategic thinking. Its attitude was reflected in the response then foreign secretary K. Raghunath gave to the (first) National Security Advisory Board.

To a question about India’s playing the ‘‘Vietnam card’’, he replied: ‘‘It is not practical.’’ That was six odd years ago. With all the strategic goings-on it has since been party to, one hopes the Foreign Office is a bit more canny these days.


Regular Member
Jul 4, 2009
The 64th anniversary of Vietnam’s National Day was observed on September 2, 2009. On that occasion the embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam brought out a publication Vietnam-India in Focus. The following article, appearing in the publication, is being reproduced here for the benefit of our readers.

India’s Look-East Policy was initiated in the early 1990s with the specific objective of its economic integration and political cooperation with South-East Asia, resulting from a more pragmatic approach by her foreign relations. The objective of this policy was also to expand its area of influence by developing security relations in all directions, especially so in South-East Asia, with a view to becoming a major player in the emerging balance of power in Asia.

The security element in India’s Look-East Policy received an assertive diplomatic endeavour more after India declared herself as a nuclear state after a successful nuclear test in May 1998. China’s emergence as a major economic and military power together with its irredentist claims over the whole of South China Sea and exclusive economic zones that has brought it into conflict with some of its neighbouring countries in South-East and East Asia, particularly over the Spratlys Islands, have created apprehensions in Asia about China’s future ambitions and intentions.

A major manifestation of the growing political and economic interaction is the ASEAN’s decision to confer upon India, first the Sectoral Dialogue Partnership (SDP) in 1992 and then the Full Dialogue Partnership (FDP) in 1995. There are three major aspects in India’s involvement in the region. First, India’s membership of a range of institutions connected to South-East Asian governments on security matters. Second, India’s bilateral security and defence agreements with important ASEAN members like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Third, India’s growing naval activities in the Indian Ocean cited as a “legitimate area of interest” in the Indian Maritime Doctrine of 2004. India’s Look-East thrust involving the ASEAN and the ‘rim land’ states farther afield—like Japan and South Korea—has been a success in great part because of naval diplomacy. India’s naval flotillas streaming into Asian ports to showcase Indian designed missile destroyers, holding annual joint exercises in the Andaman Sea with the smaller littoral navies, exercising off shore during extended “goodwill” tours with the host country’s naval vessels and, generally, establishing a presence in proximal as well as distant seas constantly reminds these of India’s strategic importance.

The Indian Navy has been taking an active role in combating piracy in the Malacca Straits. India has a significant naval build-up at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and created a special Far Eastern Naval Command (FENC) based on these Islands. The bilateral naval exercises were a manifestation of a more strategic ‘Look-East’ policy. In 2000, the Indian Navy had sent warships, tankers and submarines to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam for bilateral exercises and as gestures of goodwill.

South-East Asian nations perceive India as a benign power whose peaceful rise accrues significant strategic benefits for her to play a larger role in the region.

India had already attended a number of ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences (PMCs) and participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings. This allowed her entry into multilateral security deliberations outside the United Nations aegis for the first time. During the last twelve years, India participated in a number of ARF activities relating to confidence-building measures (CBMs), maritime search and rescue, peace-keeping, non-proliferation, preventive diplomacy and disaster management and found them productive and useful for the facilitation of the introduction of appropriate CBMs among participants. India has now graduated itself to the status of ASEAN-India summit, at par with ASEAN plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea). India is also now a major participant in the East Asian Summit (EAS) along with Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and the ten ASEAN countries.

The strategic imperatives for cooperation between India and South-East Asia arise from the uncertainties in the regional security environment. The threats of terrorism, both from within and across borders, are now confronting both India and the ASEAN countries calling for close monitoring, coordination and fashioning a joint approach in combating the scourge. Among other areas where India and the ASEAN nations are co-coordinating their efforts are problems of piracy, environmental pollution, narcotics traffic, illegal migration, other security-related issues, including the safety of the sea-lanes-of-communication (SLOC) vital for the economic prosperity of the region. Above all, India and ASEAN need to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region, so that the countries in South-East Asia can pursue their economic development and progress for their people.

Vietnam in India’s Look-East Policy

Vietnam is important in the promotion of India’s political, economic and security interests in South-East Asia, and in turn, in the success of our Look-East Policy. Vietnam is a potential regional power in South-East Asia with great political stability and a successful economic performer with an annual growth rate of seven per cent. Vietnam’s geo-strategic location, its demonstrated military prowess and its national will-power lends it a critical place in the strategic calculus of South-East Asia. Economically, Vietnam with its stress on economic liberalisation offers very attractive preferential prospects for Indian foreign direct investment (FDI). In terms of India’s energy security, Vietnam’s offshore oil deposit offers opportunities for exploration and eventual supply to India. On political and foreign policy issues Vietnam had been a consistent supporter of India, including our scheme for the reform of the United Nations and our recent bid for permanent membership in the Security Council. Apart from cooperation in the bilateral framework, the two countries have maintained close cooperation and mutual support at the regional and international fora such as the UN, NAM and other mechanisms in the ASEAN like the ARF, East Asia Summit and Mekong-Ganga Cooperation. In more concrete terms, India can play a vital role in the capacity building of Vietnam’s military deterrence capabilities.

The latest in the defence interactions between the two countries was the visit to Vietnam of Defence Minister A.K. Antony in 2007 when he announced at a meeting with his counterpart General Phung Quang Thanh that India will transfer 5000 items of naval spares belonging to the Petya class of ships to Vietnam. He also announced the deputation of a four-member team to impart training on UN peacekeeping operations in the first half of 2008. The two sides had agreed to set up a joint working group to facilitate the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defence cooperation.

General Phung, in his remarks, expressed gratitude to India for providing training to the armed forces officers in various areas and said “they are bringing back valuable knowledge and skills to their work areas”. So far, 49 officers have attended various Army and Navy courses in India and 64 officers have attended English language courses.

Vietnamese and Indian Prime Ministers agreed to officially establish a strategic partnership between the two countries in New Delhi in July 6, 2007. The strategic partnership will support each country’s durable growth and prosperity and work for the sake of peace, stability, co-operation and development in the Asia-Pacific and the world. To promote this new strategic partnership, the two leaders agreed to further bolster the two countries’ political ties in addition to establishing a strategic dialogue mechanism at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers. They also reached an agreement on continuing strengthening security and defence co-operation, especially in training and the sharing of information on anti-terrorism, sea pirates and transnational crimes.

On trade co-operation, the two PMs agreed to bring the two-way trade to US $ 2 billion in 2010 and US $ 5 billion in 2015. India took note of Vietnam’s request to recognise the South-East Asian country’s full-fledged market economy and pledged to take necessary measures to enable Vietnamese products to enter Indian markets so as to balance the two-way trade.

PM Dung said at the Vietnam-India Business Forum that the Vietnamese state and government always created favourable conditions for Indian investors to invest in fields such as information technology, electricity, oil and gas, metallurgy, coal, transport, agriculture, fisheries, food processing, health care and medicine.

The two countries also signed agreements on cooperation in fisheries and aquaculture, agriculture, culture and educational exchange. As part of the MoU on cultural exchange, a team of the Archaeological Survey of India is to undertake conservation work in Cham monuments in Vietnam. The memorandum between the Department of Atomic Energy and the Vietnam Ministry of Science and Technology focused cooperation in the training of Vietnamese manpower in India in nuclear and related fields, study and evaluation of uranium ore processing technology for Vietnamese uranium ores and Indian assistance to the activities of the India-Vietnam Nuclear Science Centre at Dalat in Vietnam.


Regular Member
Jul 4, 2009
The following is an English translation of the original article, which was written in Vietnamese. For some reason, when I cut and paste it onto here, the formatting comes out strange. Sorry.
You can find the original on the BBC Vietnam page here:

BBC Vietnamese - Viê?t Nam - Lá bài Cam Ranh và tranh ch?p Bi?n ?ông

Vietnam’s trump card in the South China Sea disputes?
By Quynh Le –

As tension in the South China Sea rises, there is rumour that the US is seeking lease of
Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay.
Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper recently claimed the US is seeking to lease
the military base in Cam Ranh, completing its attempt to "encircle" China.
However, Western observers doubt Vietnam would once again allow foreign armies'
presence on its soil.

'Encircling China'

Such rumours have surfaced occasionally since the day the Russian flag was lowered the
last time in Cam Ranh in 2002.
Given recent Sino-US confrontations in the South China Sea, it's no surprise there are
concerns that China's interests can be affected if the US decides to involve deeper in the
The Wen Wei Po argues, "The US already has two strategic island chains in the Pacific,
not including Cam Ranh Bay. Once the US successfully leases it, the chain of islands will
be enhanced."
However, David Brewster, from Australian National University's Strategic and Defence
Studies Centre, said it was "extremely unlikely" that either Vietnam or the US would
want such a deal.
"It is very unlikely Vietnam would play its major strategic trump card in this manner in
the current security environment."
"Such a move would have major repercussions for both Vietnam and the United States
and it is difficult to see why either would make that move," he told the BBC.

Iskander Rehman, a PhD student at the CERI (Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches
Internationales) in Paris, concurred that there are major obstacles to the realization of a
permanent US military presence in Cam Ranh.
"Many in Vietnam’s defence establishment fear any prolonged American presence could
be viewed by the Chinese as a ‘casus belli and jeopardise the entire painstaking process of
Sino-Vietnamese normalisation," he said.
According to Prof. Carlyle Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy,
the Americans are interested in "places rather than bases", given the public backlash they
saw in countries like South Korea.
Although Cam Ranh Bay is deemed by many to be the finest natural deep sea port in
Southeast Asia, Thayer, a veteran Vietnam watcher, said the military facilities there had
been left to run down from the Soviet time.
"It would take millions of dollars to bring the facilities up to international standards," he

Navy power

The latest briefing paper by the Washington D.C.-based Jamestown Foundation noted a
recommendation by General Zhang Li, former deputy chief of the General Staff of the
People's Liberation Army (PLA), to build an airport and seaport in the Spratly Islands.
General Zhang Li claimed that China only has eight operational naval vessels deployable
to the region, which means its response capacity in the South China Sea is limited.
Russell Hsiao, the analyst at the Foundation, saw this as a likely signal that China is
increasingly willing to use force in resolving territorial disputes.
A recent report that Vietnam had signed a $1.8 billion deal with Russia for six Kilo-class
submarines was seen by many in China as a tough message to Beijing.
Of course, Vietnam alone is no match for China, and as a Hong Kong paper said,
"Vietnam's main strategy is to internationalize the South China Sea issue, attracting
Western powers to counter China".

Vietnam's trump card?

To a certain extent, Cam Ranh seems to be an asset Vietnam can promise to interested
external powers.
Dr. David Scott, a professor at Brunel University who has written a trilogy on China,
noted Cam Ranh's role was a striking one.
"Vietnam has been careful not to antagonise China too far, but remains ready to dangle
Cam Ranh Bay access as a military and also commercial carrot, amidst rising friction in
the South China Sea," he said.
India, China's likely rival in the region, has shown some interest in Cam Ranh Bay.
In its so-called String of Pearls strategy, China has constructed lots of ports in Asia,
including many countries which don't have easy relationships with India.
Beijing financed a port complex for Pakistan in Gwadar, resulting in India's concern that
there was a concerted attempt to neutralize its influence in South Asia.
China also reportedly helped Burma construct several naval facilities on the Bay of
Bengal, which may be upgraded for military purposes.
Last year, for the first time a Chinese warship visited Cambodia and some believe that
Beijing managed to secure access to Cambodia's ports.
Therefore some hawkish analysts in India are advocating closer ties with Vietnam and a
bigger presence in South East Asia.

(Indian President Pratibha Patil reviewing Vietnamese troops)

But Walter Ladwig, a doctoral student at Oxford University, argued the capabilities of
India's navy, though steadily expanding, have not caught up with their ambition.
"It would be hard to envision, in the near-term, that Indian ships could be based in
Vietnam. The Indian Navy could not secure the sea-lines of communication (SLOC) so
far from home and so close to China," he noted.
David Brewster said some sections of India's security establishment would like to see
their country having a maritime security role in the South China Sea, largely in response
to the growth of China's capabilities in the Indian Ocean.
But he said "this seems quite unrealistic in light of India's limited naval capabilities and
India's lack of real interests in the South China Sea".
In a more realistic scenario, according to Prof. Carlyle Thayer, Vietnam will be
transformed into "a transit point" for foreign warships.

Many warships - from the US, Russia, India and China - have made port calls in
Vietnam. This indicates there is money to be made for Vietnam if the country can make
better use of its strategic location and infrastructure.
From Vietnam's point of view, the best option seems to open Cam Ranh Bay to private
commerce, while granting military access to other countries on a case-by-case basis,
similar to what happened to the Philippines's Subic Bay.
Iskander Rehman said, "Vietnam can maintain a greater degree of strategic flexibility, if it
can continue to balance the US, India and China by granting berthing rights on a
temporary and conveniently non-committal basis".


Regular Member
Jan 5, 2012
US will arm Vietnam through India because Vietnam is still comunist.

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