PartnershipsSouth AsiaSoutheast Asia

India, Vietnam deepen defense partnership to confront regional challenges

Mandeep Singh

Facing shared security concerns, India and Vietnam are stepping up their defense ties, including a port visit to Vietnam by two Indian Navy vessels, New Delhi’s delivery of a missile corvette to Hanoi, senior-level meetings, and participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises.

The Indo-Pacific is confronting challenges to peace and stability, as well as to sustainable development endeavors, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Do Hung Viet said at the Raisina Dialogue conference in New Delhi in February 2024. In response, multilateral cooperation and constructive dialogue are key to regional prosperity, he said.

The India-Vietnam comprehensive strategic partnership signed in 2016 “encompasses the entire spectrum of cooperation,” including “deepening defense and security cooperation,” Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Sandeep Arya told the Vietnam News Agency in February.

The nations’ shared concerns include freedom of navigation, territorial integrity and adherence to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and they have found common ground in opposing the People’s Republic of China’s destabilizing assertiveness, according to the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

Recent bilateral engagements showcased defense cooperation, India’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) reported.

In December 2023, for example, Indian Armed Forces personnel deployed to Vietnam for the fourth iteration of exercise VINBAX, which is designed to develop collaborative partnerships, enhance interoperability and share best practices under the U.N. Charter provisions on peacekeeping operations. The exercise included command post and field training drills, as well as the employment of an engineer company and medical team.

India gifted the domestically built missile corvette INS Kirpan to Vietnam in June 2023. The 90-meter ship has engaged in military and humanitarian assistance missions since being commissioned in 1991.

The May 2023 port visit of the Indian Navy destroyer INS Delhi and the multirole frigate INS Satpura to Da Nang in central Vietnam strengthened bilateral ties and enhanced cooperation and interoperability, the MOD stated. Earlier that month, the two ships participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-India Maritime Exercise with the Vietnam People’s Navy frigate Tran Hung Dao and other vessels.

Such port visits enable “a greater strategic role for India in Southeast Asia” and allow the Indian Navy to monitor the Malacca Strait from the eastern side of the narrow waterway, a vital conduit for global trade, defense analyst Prakash Nanda wrote for The EurAsian Times digital publication in July 2023.

In June 2023, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phan Van Giang met in New Delhi to discuss defense industry cooperation, maritime security and multinational cooperation.

The third India-Vietnam Maritime Security Dialogue in New Delhi in May 2023 focused on maintaining a secure maritime environment conducive to inclusive growth and global well-being. That same month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh discussed their nations’ partnership on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Japan, a meeting of leading industrial nations.

“India and Vietnam share historical linkages and existing relations are strong, multifaceted and rooted on cultural and economic pillars,” the MOD stated. “In the defence sector, the cooperation is based on mutual strategic interests, a shared vision for regional stability and upholding the rules based international order.”

Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.

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