Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba is now headed for Vietnam as part of the overall strategy to steadily build military ties with the country, as with other nations in the Asia Pacific region, with an eye firmly on a confrontationist and expansionist China.
Admiral Lanba, who is India’s senior-most military officer as chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, will hold talks with Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, defence minister General Ngo Xuan Lich, chief of general staff Senior Lt-General Phan Van Giang and navy chief Rear Admiral Pham Hoai Nam during his visit from October 4 to 7.
Interestingly, Admiral Lanba will also deliver a talk on “Importance of Maritime Power” at the National Defence Academy of Vietnam, apart from visiting other military establishments. “The visit aims to consolidate cooperation between the two armed forces as well as explore new avenues for bilateral defence cooperation,” said an official.
With both wary of China’s aggressive tactics in Asia-Pacific, especially the contentious South China Sea, India and Vietnam have steadily cranked up their bilateral military ties over the last few years. There have also been a series of high-level visits to Vietnam, with PM Narendra Modi himself visiting Hanoi in September 2016 and announcing a new $500 million defence line of credit.
Before that, the then President Pranab Mukherjee and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Vietnam in 2014, national security adviser Ajit Doval in 2015 and then defence minister Manohar Parrikar in 2016.
After inking a “joint vision statement on defence for 2015-2020” in May 2015, the two countries also decided to elevate their “strategic partnership” to “comprehensive strategic partnership” during Modi’s visit in September 2016.
As earlier reported by TOI, India has also offered the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles as well as the Akash surface-to-air missile defence systems to Vietnam. India is also beginning to train Vietnamese fighter pilots to fly the Sukhoi-30 jets, much like it has been tutoring Vietnamese sailors on the complex art of operating Kilo-class submarines for the last three years.
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