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India seeks Vietnam’s partnership in the Indian Ocean to keep China at bay

Vietnam’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh (Pic: Courtesy plenglish.com)

India has sought Vietnam’s partnership in the Indian Ocean to keep a rising and assertive China at bay.

During a congratulatory telephonic conversation with Vietnam’s newly appointed Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a veiled reference to China pointed out that both countries “share a similar vision of an open, inclusive, peaceful and rules-based Indian Ocean Region”.

Both India and Vietnam, sharing borders with China, had fought short wars with Beijing—India in 1962 and Vietnam in 1979.

During the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, India had invited Vietnam to the meeting of the Indo-Pacific Quad countries comprising India, Japan, Australia and the United States. The meetings that focused on forging a common response to the pandemic included friendly countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia—two countries that have maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea. These meetings gave way to the possibility of a Quad-plus grouping, which would go beyond security and look at joint collaboration in the fields of health and alternative supply chains that are not reliant on China.

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In reference to the Indian Ocean Region, the Prime Minister stressed that India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership can contribute to promote regional stability, prosperity and development. In this context, the Prime Minister also noted that both India and Vietnam were presently fellow-members of the UN Security Council, a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said.

Analysts point out that India’s approach to the Indo-Pacific Region, comprising areas on either side of the Malacca straits that divide the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, is based on SAGAR—Security and Growth for All in the Region.

The doctrine was first aired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. In a speech, he elaborated on five points. 

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"Our goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation." Under SAGAR, the Indian navy has provided Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) to friendly countries. During the course of the Covid-19, Indian naval ships provided relief materials to southern Indian Ocean countries, including Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros and Madagascar.