India and Vietnam have embarked upon a mission to strengthen their naval ties and establish a sustainable maritime presence as Indian naval warships have been granted permission to drop anchor at the Nha Trang port in southern Vietnam. Vietnam’s Navy Chief and deputy minister Vice Admiral Nguyen Van Hien is also on a visit to India to discuss the security challenges in the region and expand the scope of defence cooperation.
The recent move to allow the Indian Navy to drop anchor at the south Vietnamese port assumes significance due to the fact that the Indian Navy is the only foreign navy in the world to have been granted such a privilege at a port other than Halong Bay near Hanoi. This will facilitate the presence of Indian Navy in the South China Sea and enable a greater strategic role in Southeast Asia. India and Vietnam are wary of growing Chinese military capabilities as well as their increasing presence in the region.
Meanwhile, Vietnam has been trying to make its presence felt in the world and augment its defence capabilities. The current visit by the Vietnamese Naval Chief to India aims to increase defence ties with India while India is also keen to offer naval facilities for training and capacity-building to Vietnam. The Vietnamese Naval Chief is scheduled to meet Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik and Army Chief General V.K. Singh, as part of his bilateral talks.
The Vietnamese Naval Chief Nguyen Van Hien plans to witness the naval capabilities of India. The Vietnamese Naval Chief has already completed his visit to Mumbai, where he visited the Indian Navy’s Western Command and defence public sector shipbuilder Mazagon Dock Limited before reaching New Delhi. He will also go to Visakhapatnam where he will visit the newly-acquired defence public sector shipbuilder Hindustan Shipyard Limited, apart from visiting naval formations.
It is felt that India could also offer its experience in ship-building to Vietnam, which currently has a small Navy. The Vietnamese Navy Chief has also assessed the Indian warship building capacities and functioning of the defence shipyards in the country.
According to defence analysts, India’s defence cooperation with Vietnam may largely be misconstrued as a counter-strategy to the growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean. However, with China’s "String of Pearls” strategy by engaging in maritime cooperation with Burma, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, it is only obvious that India would want its footprint in South China sea and south east Asia in general. India is also boosting its defence capabilities at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, located close to Southeast Asia.