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Mandira Nayar
Mandira Nayar

ACT EAST

India to step up defence ties with Vietnam to counter China

VIETNAM-INDIA/ Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for a photo with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang in front of a statue of late Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi | Reuters

India inched a little closer to Vietnam. The country that is the “central pillar’’ in India’s Act East Policy, was wooed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with closer defence ties—500 million dollars credit line for cooperation in this area—but it wasn’t all guns. Modi had roses too in his bouquet for Vietnam—with the cement of culture and a dose of charisma.

The defence deal maybe the biggest tangible take-away from the visit, but India is also trying to reach out diplomatically through safer ways than defence. It was no coincidence that the two-day conference on Indian Ocean Conference in Singapore—organised by think-tank India Foundation—happened around the same time as Prime Minister Modi visited Vietnam. The aim of the conference was for the big C—cooperation; it also aimed at the biggest C in the region—China. India hopes to harness the power of the East to get countries to Act together. The formula is simple: closer ties through culture—some cash—and civilisation.

So, Modi emphasised the “2000-year-old’’ link between the two countries; he upped the relationship between the two countries and offered cooperation in areas that go beyond just defence. “It is a matter of great satisfaction that, we have now decided to upgrade our relationship to a "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership," said Prime Minister Modi in a speech at the banquet held for him.

India has also offered a grant of US 5 million dollars for the establishment of a Software Park in the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang. And more. “The framework agreement on space cooperation would allow Vietnam to join hands with Indian Space Research Organisation to meet its national development objectives. Enhancing bilateral commercial engagement is also our strategic objective. For this, new trade and business opportunities will be tapped to achieve the trade target of fifteen billion dollars by 2020,’’ said Modi. He also thanked the Vietnamese government for its “leadership” in facilitating inscription of Nalanda Mahavihara as a UNESCO World Heritage site earlier this year.

Twelve MOUs were inked during the visit. Also, on the cards is Archaeological Survey of India’s team expertise on conservation and restoration work of the Cham monuments at My Son. It is also interesting that Modi chose to combine Vietnam with his visit to China for the G20 adding just that little bit to send a message to the dragon. He had done this last time when he combined Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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