Vietnam ,a valuable partner in the Indo-Pacific region

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    In Context 

    India and Vietnam are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. 

    Strategic Significance of Vietnam 

    • Beginning 
      • The strategic dimensions of Indo-Vietnamese relations, initiated during the 1980s, began unfolding in the form of structured and institutional arrangements during the 1990s. 
    • Maritime domain
      • India is essentially a maritime nation and the oceans hold the key to India’s future.
        •  India’s external trade (over 90% by volume and 70% by value) is by sea.
      •  Very dependent on the seas for its trade and commerce, India has intensified its efforts to engage with maritime neighbours, including Vietnam.
        • Vietnam is of great strategic importance because its position enables it to control ‘the South China Sea ( almost 55% of India’s trade with the Indo-Pacific region passes through it)
      • Since the formal declaration of a strategic partnership in 2007 and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2016, the scope and scale of the India-Vietnam strategic and defence cooperation, particularly in the maritime domain, is deepening with a clear vision, institutional mechanisms and the necessary political support from both governments.
    • Act East Policy’
      • As India pursues its ‘Act East Policy’, Vietnam has become a valuable partner in India’s political and security engagements in the Indo-Pacific region. 

    The driving forces

    • There are four key motivations behind India’s growing maritime engagement with Vietnam.
      •  India’s aspiration to counter an assertive China by strengthening Vietnam’s military power. 
      • With India’s increasing trade with East and Southeast Asia, India has begun to recognise the importance of its sea lines of communication beyond its geographical proximity;
      • India desires to intensify its presence to track potential developments in the maritime domain that could affect its national interests.
      •  The Indian Navy underlines the importance of a forward maritime presence and naval partnership that would be critical to deter potential adversaries.

    Developments

    • Economic
      • In 1992, India and Vietnam established extensive economic ties, including oil exploration, agriculture and manufacturing.
    • Defence
      • India and Vietnam signed a Joint Vision Statement on “India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030”.
        • The signing of ‘Joint Vision for Defence Cooperation’ and a memorandum of understanding on mutual logistics support in June 2022 has further strengthened mutual defence cooperation. 
      • While a U.S.$100 million Defence Line of Credit has been implemented, India has also announced early finalisation of another U.S.$500 million Defence Line of Credit to enhance Vietnam’s defence capability. 
      • India has also agreed to expand military training and assist the Vietnam Navy’s strike capabilities. 
    • Multilateral frameworks
      • They have found mutual convergences on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and are synergising their efforts to work in bilateral as well as other sub-regional and multilateral frameworks, such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation, ADMM-Plus or the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus. 
      • The Special Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in June 2022 has proposed an ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise and informal meeting between India and ASEAN Defence Ministers in November 2022. 
      • Both countries are also looking at collaboration around the seven pillars of the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).

    Strategic Concerns 

    • The two countries are working to address shared strategic concerns (such as energy security and open and secure sea lines of communication), and make policy choices without undue external interference. 
      • India sees an open and stable maritime commons being essential to international trade and prosperity; therefore, it has an interest in protecting the sea lanes. 

    China Factor 

    • India and Vietnam face territorial disputes with and shared apprehensions about their common neighbour, China. 
      • China aggressively continues to encroach in the territories of the two countries.
      • Hence, it is natural for both the countries to come closer with a view to restrain China from its aggressive actions.
    • India is willing to take a principled stand on territorial disputes in the hope that it contributes to the stabilisation of the Indo-Pacific.

    Future Prospects 

    • Bolstering friendship between the two countries is a natural outcome of a growing convergence of their strategic and economic interests, and also their common vision for peace, prosperity and their people. 
    • A strong commitment of political leadership along with the necessary institutional frameworks and cooperation between the two countries is likely to be more robust in the future.
    •  More importantly, embedding a flexible framework of engagement can contribute positively to regional stability and prosperity.
    • There are some other potential areas for New Delhi and Hanoi to further deepen collaboration, such as meaningful academic and cultural collaborations, shipbuilding, maritime connectivity, maritime education and research, coastal engineering, the blue economy, marine habitat conservation, and advance collaboration between maritime security agencies. 
    • The road map agreed upon by the leaders will be helpful in addressing common challenges and decisively navigating towards making an India-Vietnam partnership that helps in stability in the Indo-Pacific.

     

    Mains Practice Question

    [Q] India’s relations with Vietnam have acquired a depth and diversity, which cannot be rolled back.”Discuss.