Challenge for India in Indo-Pacific region and giving INS Kirpan to Vietnam, know diplomatic importance

India Vietnam Relations: India’s relation with China has deteriorated significantly after the conflict in Galvan Valley in June 2020. Along with this, China’s aggressive stand in the Indo-Pacific region has also increased the security challenges for India in this region. In such a situation, India is engaged in strengthening defense partnership with friendly countries in this region. One of these countries is Vietnam. Vietnam’s geographical location in the Indo-Pacific region greatly increases its strategic importance for India.

INS Kirpan gifted to Vietnam

Strengthening relations with Vietnam, India has gifted the missile-equipped warship ‘INS Kirpan’ to Vietnam on 22 July. For this, a ceremony was organized in Cam Ron, Vietnam. The ceremony was presided over by Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Naval Staff, who was on a visit to Vietnam. India has handed over this warship to Vietnam Navy (VPN) along with complete weapon system. Admiral R Hari Kumar described this initiative as a symbol of deep friendship and strategic partnership between India and Vietnam.

For the first time such initiative with a friendly country

The gifting of INS Kirpan to Vietnam is also historic. This is the first time that India has given a fully operational warship to a friendly country. Ever since India assumed the presidency of the G20, the vision of the G20 has been ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One Earth, One Family, One Future’. The giving of INS Kirpan to Vietnam is an example of the same approach. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had announced in June that INS Kirpan would be gifted to Vietnam. The ship had left India for Vietnam on 28 June. This warship reached Cam Ron in Vietnam on 8 July.

Vietnam’s territorial dispute with China

Vietnam has a territorial dispute with China. This dispute between the two countries is in the area of ​​South China Sea. The South China Sea is part of the Western Pacific Ocean. China is continuously increasing its supremacy in this part. Due to this, the security concerns of Vietnam are also increasing. The geographical location of Vietnam is in South China Sea only, South China Sea is in the east of Vietnam. There is a dispute between Vietnam and China over areas like South China Sea islands, reefs, fishing banks. These include the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, and several areas connected to the Gulf of Tonkin.

An eye on China’s growing friendship with Cambodia

China has a very good relationship with Vietnam’s neighboring country Cambodia. Cambodia’s geographical location makes it strategically important in the Gulf of Thailand. By increasing friendship with Cambodia, China wants to further increase its dominance in this entire region. Cambodia is one of those countries where China is continuously moving forward on its plan to build more and more military logistics centers to assist its Navy, Airforce and Army. China has had a very good relationship with Cambodia since the past. Taking advantage of the geographical location of Cambodia, China is trying to increase its influence in South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand. There have been reports of Cambodia’s Ream naval base in the Gulf of Thailand being converted into a Chinese military base. This was also confirmed by the US Department of Defense.

Vietnam’s security concern will be less

The way China’s influence in the Gulf of Thailand is increasing, security concerns for Vietnam are continuously increasing. Increasing friendship and defense cooperation with India will reduce security concerns related to China for Vietnam. With the acquisition of INS Kirpan, Vietnam’s strength will increase in both the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. This will also help in maintaining free and open sea route in the region. Most importantly, Vietnam will benefit from this to address security concerns related to China’s growing military power in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

At the same time, India always wants that international laws should be followed in the Indo-Pacific region and no country should face any hindrance in maritime trade. However, China’s attitude is against the principles of freedom, justice and rule-based international order. China is continuously increasing its presence in South China Sea, Western Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. From this point of view, it is also a diplomatic need to increase India’s cooperation with the friendly countries coming in these areas. Strengthening bilateral relations with Vietnam will help India in reducing the concern related to China in this region.

Role of Vietnam in India-ASEAN engagement

India’s relations with ASEAN countries have become very strong in the last few years. India’s friendship with Vietnam has also played a role in this. Vietnam is an important member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). India’s initiative regarding INS Kirpan reflects the high level bilateral defense partnership between the navies of the two countries. Along with this, it is also a proof that in India’s foreign policy, priority is being given to the interests of the friendly countries involved in ASEAN. This initiative has given real dimensions to India’s ‘Act East’ policy and the Security and Development for All (SAGAR) policies in the region.

Indo-Vietnam partnership is getting stronger

Vietnam is a very important partner in India’s Act East policy and Indo-Pacific vision. Both the countries share a rich history of civilizational and cultural ties dating back over 2,000 years. Vietnam also considers India as the world’s fastest growing major power country. Also sees as a close traditional friend.

India’s friendship with Vietnam is also special because India was the chairman of the International Supervision and Control Commission (ICSC) formed in 1954 under the Geneva Agreement for the Peace Process in Vietnam. Initially, India maintained consular level relations with the then North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Later, in January 1972, full diplomatic relations were established with the unified Vietnam. 50 years of full diplomatic relations with a unified Vietnam were completed in January 2022.

The two countries upgraded bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in July 2007. This decision was taken during the visit of the then Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung to India. For the last 7 years, the friendship between the two countries has grown rapidly. India and Vietnam are Comprehensive Strategic Partners since September 2016. At that time Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Vietnam. Only then both the countries had decided to upgrade the strategic partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Defense and economic cooperation is the main pillar under this partnership.

India-Vietnam are important economic partners

Both the countries are defense partners as well as important economic partners and an average increase of 20 per cent is also being seen in bilateral trade. In the financial year 2021-22, an increase of 27% was registered in mutual trade. During this period the figure of bilateral trade had crossed $14 billion. Trade from India is very beneficial for Vietnam. Vietnam exports more to India than imports. There is still immense potential for increasing economic cooperation between the two countries.

Diplomatic importance of increasing defense partnership

By gifting INS Kirpan, India has shown that it is taking its strategic partnership with Vietnam further. This Indo-Pacific region is especially important in view of concerns about China’s increasingly aggressive moves in the South China Sea. India has been helping Vietnam in the oil exploration project in the seawater area of ​​South China Sea. Due to shared interests in this region, maritime security cooperation between India and Vietnam is also increasing since last few years.

Shared vision for ‘India-Vietnam Defense Partnership 2030’

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had visited Vietnam in June last year. During that time, the Defense Ministers of both the countries had signed a joint vision document for ‘India-Vietnam Defense Partnership 2030’. This step was taken with the aim of expanding bilateral defense cooperation. At the same time, an MoU was also signed between the two countries to take forward the processes for enhancing logistic cooperation between the defense forces.

During this visit of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, it was also agreed upon to finalize the defense loan assistance of $500 million given to Vietnam soon. This is expected to significantly increase Vietnam’s defense capabilities. Vietnam’s National Defense Minister General Phan Van Giang visited India in June last month. During this, both the countries had identified means of increasing the existing areas of defense cooperation, especially industrial cooperation, maritime security and multinational cooperation.

INS Kirpan is an indigenously built Khukri class missile warship. INS Kirpan is a warship operated by about 12 officers and 100 sailors, which is 90 meters long and 10.45 meters wide. INS Kirpan was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1991. It was an important part of the Eastern Fleet of the Indian Navy. Warship INS Kirpan completed 32 years of illustrious service to the nation. After that the Indian Navy decided to discharge him. INS Kirpan has participated in many operations in the last 32 years.

The handing over of the indigenously built in-service missile corvette INS Kirpan to Vietnam shows that India will never back down in helping like-minded partners enhance their military capability.

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