To tango with Viet Nam

Take missiles, give naval base?

Bharat Karnad makes a case for India to cultivate Viet Nam as a strategic ally in East Asia.

China has strategically discomfited India and sought to ‘‘contain’’ it to south Asia by arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons and missiles. Militarily to focus on Pakistan — the Chinese cat’s paw — as India has done is unwise. The cat can be more effectively dealt with by enabling Vietnam — a smaller but spirited tomcat — to rise militarily as a consequential state in China’s immediate neighbourhood.

In the short term, this should reasonably be the prime Indian strategic objective…

In exchange for the conventional warheaded Prithvi now and the promise of more advanced missiles and other such strategic cooperation in the future, Hanoi should be persuaded to allow the Indian Navy a basing option in Cam Ranh Bay, unarguably the finest natural deep water harbour in Asia, to match the planned Chinese naval presence in Gwadar on the Baluchistan coast. [IE]

Karnad points out that India should propose to sell sub-300km Prithvi missiles to Viet Nam instead of the BrahMos cruise missiles that it seeks. Given that the sale of such missiles is permitted under the international non-proliferation regime, Karnad argues the only thing that stands in the way of capitalising on this opportunity is a lack of imagination on the part of India’s foreign policy establishment. Sure.

6 thoughts on “To tango with Viet Nam”

  1. China has a much better hold over Vn being the biggest trading partner of Vietnam. China is already playing some naughty games in Cambodia and Lao – the two areas where Vn has traditionally wanted to exert its power. And there are all those disputed islands on South China. So if China sees Vietnam acting funny, then it will put pressure on these areas surrounding Vn.

    It is too late now, India should have wooed Vn back in the 80s when relations between China and Vn were bad.

  2. Preetam:

    China is a trading partner with everyone, including India. Every country from Southeast Asia to East Asia fear China, for its potential to be a hegemon in the region, if it’s not one already.

    India should work with the United States, Japan, and Australia in the region to contain China. It’s still not too late, in my opinion.

  3. Indians should sell Prithvi technology for closer relationship with Vietnam and also use Bramhos as bargaining chip – Bramhos is also a sub-300km missile that was developed with explicit intent of selling to other friendly states.

    The Chinese use oil as the cover to contain India by establishing naval bases in Pak (one reason why India need access to Iranian naval ports) and in all countries north and east of Bay of Bengal. What is India’s justification for seeking access to naval port beyond Strait of Malacca? Would India need to explain to the US? The Chinese are talking of spending $20 billion to build and protect (with two bases on either side of) a future Kra Canal. If Indians can get a hand on this project (Joint Chief Lt. Col. Aditya Singh mentioned Kra Canal in passing during a recent interview with Reuters), access to naval base in Vietnam can easily be justified. So can high level of trade with Japan, Korea, and Taiwan – for that we will have to reform the economy on the home front first.

    I agree that it is never too late think and act strategically. On the other hand, MEA’s strategic thinking has a long way to go!

  4. A democratic Vietnam would really scare the pants of china´s commie rulers.
    A United Korea which is democratic and prosperous will also scare the
    pants of China, probably even more as Korea is close to Beijing.
    China weak points are Tibet and East Turkistan. Chinese find it hard to
    live in the high altitude Tibet. Promoting dalai lama vision of making
    Tibet a zone of Ahimsa will win India a lot of brownie points.
    But I don´t know the Indian political establishment is scared of China.
    The ruler of Indias commie party we will probably learn in 20 years is
    under remote control from chinas secret service.

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