Strategic ties with Vietnam
India and Vietnam are strengthening their strategic ties in the backdrop of increasing Chinese belligerence. Sino-Vietnamese relations started turning sour even when the Vietnamese were fighting against US aggression. There were reports that the Chinese had put up obstructions to the flowing of Soviet military assistance to Vietnam. In 1979, Chinese troops had entered Vietnam. The Vietnamese army gave them a good drubbing and threw them out. In recent times China’s hard line on South China Sea has not only further antagonized Vietnam but has forced it to look on its huge neighbour with suspicion and fear. In May, 2014, there were clashes between the two sides when the Chinese set up a drilling platform in a disputed island that Vietnam claims its own.
Vietnam’s growing ties with India have been frowned upon by China several times. As Beijing has hardened its stand on Vietnam, the latter has moved closer to India. It is the perceived threat to their mutual security and sovereignty that has brought the two countries closer to each other. Now India has decided to step up Vitetnam’s defence capability in a big way by providing with Akash anit-missile missile systems, the BrahMos cruise missile, latest anti-submarine torpedoes and training Vietnamese pilots to fly Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets which have a range of five thousand kilometres and which can carry both conventional and nuclear missiles.
As China and Pakistan gang up against India politically, diplomatically and militarily, and both try to draw in Russia to their side, India has to devise its strategic response by deepening its ties with neighbours like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan. A possibility of putting in place a framework for regional defence cooperation may be explored by the countries concerned – an arrangement that will give full freedom to the concerned countries to act both independently and jointly to meet a common threat or a developing situation. To remain fully prepared for meeting aggressive moves is to reduce greatly the risk of actually facing such moves.
The friendship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is another imponderable at the moment. Such a friendship is against the rationale of US foreign policy and is paradoxical. To develop this friendship Trump will have to stop the anti-Russian policies that Obama is pursuing now – the policies which have driven Russia closer to China. Old power equations are changing India and her close neighbours will have to watch these changes and respond to the changes in a coordinated way.