Defence Minister's Vietnam Visit

Both India and Vietnam shared views on the significance of maintaining peace, stability, maritime and aviation security, safety and freedom in the East Sea, as well as settling disputes through peaceful measures according to global norms, UNCLOS, and need to reach an efficient Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea

June 20, 2022 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army

 

DEFENCE MINISTER RAJNATH SINGH WITH GENERAL PHAN VAN GIANG, THE MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE, VIETNAM, IN HANOI ON JUNE 8, 2022.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Hanoi on June 7, 2022 for a three-day visit to Vietnam. India and Vietnam have been developing closer maritime security cooperation with shared security concerns in backdrop of the changing dynamics in the region and China's overtly aggressive stance. India also has oil exploration projects in the Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea. Rajnath's visit coincided with the historic occasion of 50 years of establishment of India-Vietnam Diplomatic relations.

India and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on mutual logistics support. This is the first such agreement that Vietnam has signed with any country.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh began his visit by paying respects to late President Ho Chi Minh at his Mausoleum in Hanoi. During the course of his visit, Rajnath Singh called on the President of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc and held wide-ranging discussions with Vietnam's Minister of National Defence General Phan Van Giang including on effective and practical initiatives to further expand bilateral defence engagements, cooperation in regional and global issues, and early finalisation of the $500 million defence Line of Credit extended by India to Vietnam, implementation of which will add to Vietnam's defence capabilities.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a bilateral meeting with the Minister of National Defence, Vietnam, General Phan Van Giang, in Hanoi on June 8, 2022.

India and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on mutual logistics support. This is the first such agreement that Vietnam has signed with any country. Both the countries also signed the 'Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030' that would enhance the scope and scale of bilateral defence cooperation. Rajnath tweeted - "Had an excellent meeting with General Phan Van Giang, the Defence Minister of Vietnam. We renewed interactions on expanding bilateral cooperation. Our close Defence and Security cooperation is an important factor of stability in the Indo-Pacific region."

Presiding over an event at the Hong Ha Shipyard in Hai Phong, Rajnath handed over 12 high-speed guard boats to Vietnam, saying, "It gives me great pleasure to join this historic ceremony marking the successful completion of the project to build 12 high speed guard boats under the $100 million defence Line of Credit by India. I am confident that this will be a precursor to many more cooperative defence projects between India and Vietnam. This project is a glowing example of our 'Make in India -- Make for the World' mission."

Rajnath handed over 12 high-speed guard boats to Vietnam under the $100 million defence Line of Credit by India

The initial five high-speed boats were manufactured at the Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Shipyard in India and remaining seven were built in Hong Ha shipyard. Rajnath said India would be greatly pleased if close friends like Vietnam become part of the country's transformation in the defence manufacturing sector.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh calling on the President of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in Hanoi.

During the visit, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also visited the training institutions of Vietnam at Nha Trang, including the Telecommunication University where an Army Software Park is being established with $5 million grant from India. Rajnath Singh also announced gifting of two simulators and monetary grant towards setting up of language and IT Lab at Air Force Officers Training School for capacity building of Vietnamese armed forces.

Rajnath said India would be greatly pleased if close friends like Vietnam become part of the country's transformation in the defence manufacturing sector

Highlights of the statement issued by Vietnam's Ministry of National Defence are as under:

  • On the foundation of the "Vietnam-India Joint Vision Statement for Peace, Prosperity and People" released in December 2020, both sides concurred to strengthen collaboration, effectively implement signed agreements, focus on increasing contacts and exchanges of delegations at all levels.
  • Maintaining and enhancing efficiency of dialogue and consultation mechanisms, especially defence policy consultation at deputy defence minister level, foster partnership in training and cooperation among armed forces, participation in UN peacekeeping operations and strengthen coordination and consultations at multilateral forums.
  • Both sides shared views on regional and global issues, showing concern over complicated developments in the world and regional political and security situation with both traditional and non-traditional security challenges, along with impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Latent risks in the global security environment in the world and Asia-Pacific region remain. Both sides shared views on the significance of maintaining peace, stability, maritime and aviation security, safety and freedom in the East Sea, as well as settling disputes through peaceful measures according to global norms, UNCLOS, and need to reach an efficient Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea.
  • General Phan Van Giang invited leaders of the Indian Ministry of Defence and Indian military industrial firms to attend the Vietnam International Defence Exhibition scheduled in late 2022.
  • Concluding the talks, the two defence ministers signed a statement on Vietnam-India defence partnership joint vision towards 2030 and a Memorandum of Understanding on mutual support in logistics between the two defence ministers.

While the US-led Quad has been reiterating centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in all discussions and joint statements, Vietnam is an important country of the ASEAN. Vietnam has territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea (SCS) region along with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. China's illegal territorial claims in the SCS stems from the greed over the estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the sea.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh calling on the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Pham Minh Chinh, in Hanoi.

Vietnam's resilience in giving a bloody nose to both the US and China in wars is well scripted and known globally. India and Vietnam share a rich history of civilisation and cultural linkages spanning over two thousand years Vietnam is an important partner in India's Act East Policy (AEP) and India's Indo-Pacific vision. Both share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership since 2016. Defence cooperation is a key pillar of this partnership.

The two defence ministers signed a statement on Vietnam-India defence partnership joint vision towards 2030

For some years, the possibility of India exporting the BrahMos missiles to Vietnam has been in the news, which perhaps has not happened perceiving Russian objections due to the Russia-China relationship. But supply of BrahMos to Vietnam should be equated with India exporting BrahMos missiles to the Philippines, which is for defensive purposes. Neither the Philippines nor Vietnam can be expected to launch offensives against China. Perhaps a dialogue with Russia on the issue is warranted, Supply of BrahMos missiles to Vietnam will be good for both India and Vietnam.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh handing over 12 High Speed Guard Boats to Vietnam at Hong Ha Shipyard, in Hai Phong, Vietnam on June 9, 2022.

The India-Vietnam Strategic Partnership has great scope for expanding the defence and security relationship including cooperation in defence manufacturing sector. Perhaps it is also time to upgrade the current defence policy consultation at Deputy Defence Minister level to the level of the Defence Ministers.