Modi’s visit to Vietnam will be the first bilateral visit to the country by an Indian Prime Minister since 2001.
New Delhi (Sputnik) — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Vietnam, the first by an Indian head of government in the last 15 years, is being seen as India’s attempt to counter China’s influence in South East Asia. In contrast to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to the country in 2001, this visit will primarily focus on defense export and maritime partnership, sources said.
It is expected that India will offer a range of military equipment to Vietnam including the BrahMos missile and Varunastra anti-submarine torpedo. Vietnam had earlier expressed interest in the naval version of the BrahMos. While, India expects to open the window for the sale of the first homegrown heavyweight anti-submarine torpedo Varunastra. India had earlier announced a credit line of USD100 million during President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Vietnam for procurement of off-shore patrol boats.
Experts see this visit as a counterstroke to China’s policy of arming India’s rival Pakistan for decades. Bharat Karnad, former member of India’s National Security Council and security analyst, told Sputnik, “India should not only equip Vietnam with the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile but also transfer to Hanoi the 700 km Agni-1 medium-range ballistic missile; but suitably disguised as falling within the MTCR-mandated 300 km range restrictions. China has already done its worst. It is time for India to reciprocate amply in equal measure.”
The roadmap for the upcoming high level visit was prepared by both countries during 8th Foreign Office Consultations and Strategic Dialogue meeting held in New Delhi on August 2, 2016. According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, “At the 8th Foreign Office Consultations meeting the two sides held deliberations on an entire gamut of bilateral relations, including the forthcoming high level visits. During the Strategic Dialogue meeting, both sides discussed ruling of United Nations’ tribunal ruling on South China Sea.”
Karnad says, “The tragedy is that the Indian government has taken so long to realize the strategic value of responding to China in kind as a tit-for-tat measure against its nuclear missile arming Pakistan. I have long argued that if India lacks the stomach for a fight with China, as seems to be the case, then India’s national interest is best served by arming to the hilt Vietnam, the only country that despite comprehensive disparity with China, has repeatedly shown the guts and the gumption to take on the Chinese military.”
Meawnwhile, India’s space agency ISRO is already working towards the establishment of a Satellite Tracking & Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam for ASEAN member countries. This station will cover the entire region of ASEAN including the South China Sea. During Modi’s visit, it is also expected that both countries will agree to upgrade all the military equipment like the T-54, T-55 and helicopters.