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India set to handover missile corvette at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam’s legendary port in South China Sea

Indian Naval Ship Kirpan - This is for the first time that India is gifting a fully operational corvette by India to any Friendly Foreign Country (Image courtesy: Indian Navy)

After having completed 32 years of glorious service to the Indian Navy, Indian Naval Ship Kirpan – the indigenously-built, 1350-tonne missile Corvette – will be handed over to Vietnam People’s Navy (VPN) at the strategic military port of Cam Ranh Bay on the South China Sea which is regarded by many as a defence post of the Pacific Ocean.

The Indian Defence Ministry said in a statement Saturday that Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar will preside the Decommissioning followed by Handing Over Ceremony of INS Kirpan.

Cam Ranh Bay – also known as “ideal natural fortress” – has been controlled by the American and Soviet fleets in the past due to its geo-political strategic position on the international shipping routes that offers access to the Straits of Malacca, the South China and Java Sea, and the Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Admiral Kumar would also be visiting the headquarters Vietnam People’s Navy at Hai Phong for bilateral interaction with Vice Admiral Tran Thanh Nghiem, the Commander-in-Chief of the Vietnam People’s Navy and then call on Vietnamese Defence Minister General Phan Van Gang.

INS Kirpan Vietnam

It was on June 19 during General Giang’s visit to New Delhi, and subsequent bilateral talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, that India announced the gifting of indigenously built Khukri-class Missile Corvette to Vietnam – the first such instance of gifting a fully operational corvette by India to any Friendly Foreign Country.

New Delhi maintains that the gift to Hanoi is a reaffirmation of the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as both countries jointly promote peace, stability, maritime safety and security and freedom of navigation and overflight in the Indo-Pacific Region.

“The visit of the CNS signifies a high level of bilateral defence engagements between Indian Navy and VPN, as well as India’s recognition of ‘ASEAN Centrality’ to the region,” said the Indian defence ministry.

Vietnam remains an important pillar of India’s Act East Policy and a key partner of its Indo-Pacific Vision underlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative.

INS Kirpan, which is capable of speed in excess of 25 knots and is fitted with a medium-range gun, 30 mm close-range guns, and chaff launchers besides surface-to-surface missiles, departed on her final journey under Indian Tricolour from Visakhapatnam to Vietnam on June 28 and reached Cam Ranh on July 8.

The active-duty missile corvette will further enhance the capabilities of the Southeast Asian country’s Navy which is constantly tackling China’s strategic expansion in the region.

It will also help the country’s navy to perform a wide variety of roles including coastal and off-shore patrol, coastal security, surface warfare, anti-piracy, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

Last year, India handed over 12 High-Speed Guard Boats to Vietnam People’s Navy during Defence Minister Singh’s visit to Hanoi.

The state-of-the-art boats were handed over by Singh in a ceremony organised at Hong Ha Shipyard in Hai Phong as Singh invited Vietnam to become a part of India’s defence industrial transformation through enhanced cooperation that will take forward PM Modi’s vision of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’.

Also Read: After high-speed boats, India gifts missile corvette to bolster Vietnam’s combat power in South China Sea

India and Vietnam share a rich history of civilisational and cultural linkages spanning over 2,000 years.

Both countries have also signed a ‘Joint Vision Statement on Defence Partnership towards 2030’ and inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Mutual Logistics Support, significantly enhancing the scope and scale of existing bilateral defence cooperation.

Signalling its desire to have a less intertwined future with China, Vietnam has been deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with New Delhi since 2016 to maintain peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

A detailed plan to enhance the linkages on strategic, security and defence matters has been worked out as both nations have expressed concerns about actions and incidents in the South China Sea that erode trust in the region.

Also Read: Wary of China, Vietnam bonds with India in Indo-Pacific waters