Saturday, December 14, 2013

Increased naval cooperation between India and Vietnam signals further balancing against China

Photo by Sebastian D'Douza/Agence France-Presse

China’s strengthening presence in the East and South China Seas and the increasing boldness of their claims in those critical waters and sea lanes to the Indian Ocean are apparently continuing to cause alarm amongst its Asian neighbors.  This is being signaled again by the increased cooperation now occurring between the states of Vietnam and India.  Recent reports indicate that India will train Vietnamese sailors in submarine warfare.  This appears to be part of India’s broader efforts to reinforce defense ties with countries across the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions. 
Vietnam has ordered six Kilo-class submarines from the Russian Admiralty Shipyard in St Petersburg.  The first one of the six was delivered last month.   While Vietnam already had two Yugo-class midget submarines it obtained from South Korea, the purchase of the Kilo-class submarines puts India in a great position for training assistance as they have operated Kilo-class submarines since 1986. 
However, from several indications, this is only a small part of the cooperation is envisioned between the two states.  A Vietnamese official indicated that the strategic partnership would expand to include joint development of defense projects, and in one of the first times ever, India will extend military credit to another state.   India will provided Vietnam $100 million in credit for off shore patrol vehicles and other military equipment.  There is even interest in India in selling the cruise missile BrahMos to the Vietnamese, but especially as the missile is a joint project of India and Russia, a lot of details would need to be hammered out.  It is in an indicator nonetheless of the extent of the lofty goals of the increased cooperation.

 Geography is always present, however.  Already, India and Vietnam are jointly exploring for oil in the Phu Kanh basin of the South China Sea which Vietnam believes to be in their zone of influence but which China disputes.  In fact,  Beijing warned New Delhi that its permission was needed for India to explore for energy there.  India and Vietnam have gone forward in spite of China's objections. The extent to which China will be upset by the growing cooperation between India and Vietnam (both of whom have fought with China) is not certain.
 One of the more dangerous (for India) responses on the part of China would be for them to be motivated to provide Pakistan with a nuclear submarine.  Nevertheless, there seems to be a resolve to continue going forward with the cooperation, however.  


No comments: