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Will New Delhi and Hanoi inch closer to BrahMos deal during Vietnamese defence minister’s visit?

BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system mounted on Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) during Defence Expo (Image courtesy: Ministry of Defence)

One year after the signing of a ‘Joint Vision Statement on Defence Partnership towards 2030’, the India-Vietnam show of camaraderie will be on full display once again as the country’s Defence Minister General Phan Van Giang travels to New Delhi on a two-day visit starting Sunday.

General Giang, who is also a Politburo member of Vietnam’s Communist Party and Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission, will call on Rajnath Singh on Monday as the two ministers advance defence ties.

The visit follows last month’s talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnam PM Pham Minh Chinh on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima.

India Vietnam Brahmos
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Vietnam PM Pham Minh Chinh on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima, last month (Image courtesy: Twitter/@NarendraModi)

During their discussion, the two leaders noted the steady progress achieved in the bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and agreed to enhance high-level exchanges and deepen bilateral trade and investment ties.

They also discussed opportunities in the fields of defence, building resilient supply chains, energy, science and technology, human resource development, culture and people-to-people ties.

Interestingly, after the Philippines, Vietnam too has shown interest in acquiring BrahMos – the potent offensive missile weapon system developed through the joint venture between India (DRDO) and Russia (NPOM) – to strengthen its coastal defence operations.

More than a decade ago, Russia had supplied Vietnam with mobile coastal missile system Bastion with a unified supersonic homing anti-ship missile Yakhont.

vietnam coastal defence

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

Signalling its desire to have a less intertwined future with China, Hanoi 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.

Last June, during his visit to the Vietnamese capital at the invitation of his counterpart, Singh spotlighted that both countries share a rich history of civilisational and cultural linkages spanning over 2,000 years.

India Vietnam
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with then Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi, last year (Image courtesy: Ministry of Defence, India)

Besides signing the Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030 which significantly enhances the scope and scale of existing bilateral defence cooperation, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Mutual Logistics Support was also inked during the Defence Minister’s Vietnam visit.

This was dubbed as a major step towards simplifying procedures for mutually beneficial logistic support and was the first such major agreement which Vietnam signed with any country.

Vietnam India Defence
Last year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh handed over 12 High-Speed Guard Boats to Vietnam under the Indian government’s $US 100 million Defence Line of Credit (Image courtesy: Twitter/@RajnathSingh)

India also handed over 12 High-Speed Guard Boats to the Southeast Asian country 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’.

“Defence engagements between the two nations have diversified to include wide-ranging contacts between the services, military-to-military exchanges, high-level visits, capacity building and training programmes, cooperation in UN Peacekeeping, ship visits and bilateral exercises,” the Indian Defence Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Two months ago, Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security General To Lam was in New Delhi for two days with a high-ranking delegation at the invitation of National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.

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

NSA Ajit Doval
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval with Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam, in New Delhi, last month (Image courtesy: Minister of Public Security, Vietnam)

With India being the current chair of the world’s leading group of developed and emerging economies (G20), Vietnam has thanked India for highlighting the perspectives and concerns of the Global South and always supporting its role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

India and Vietnam also have convergences in the wider maritime context. In October 2021, India and ASEAN adopted a Joint Statement on Cooperation on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific for Peace, Stability and Prosperity in the Region.

All three service Chiefs of the Indian Armed Forces have visited Vietnam over the last few years while the Commanders-in-Chief of the Vietnam People’s Navy and Vietnam People’s Air Force have visited India.

Two Indian Naval Ships, INS Shivalik and INS Kamorta paid port calls to Ho Chi Minh City Port in November 2022 and INS Delhi and INS Satpura made a port call at Da Nang Port from May 19 to May 22, last month.