India is now actively discussing the possible sale of the indigenously developed Akash surface-to-air missile systems to Vietnam, even as the two countries steadily crank up their bilateral military ties with a watchful eye on a confrontational China in the Asia-Pacific region.
With Beijing continuing to thwart New Delhi’s bid to join the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and get Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar designated a terrorist by the UN, while also stepping ut its naval invasion into the Indian Ocean Region, India is responding by fast-tracking military ties with countries in China’s own backyard. The expanding “strategic and military partnership” with Japan and Vietnam, in particular, has arise a major thrust area.
As per the sources, the discussions under way with Vietnam on the Akash area defence missiles, which have an interception range of 25-km against hostile aircraft, drones and helicopters, come after India earlier offered BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and Varunastra anti-submarine to the nation. Defence minister Manohar PArrikar says Vietnam “is a close friend” and several initiatives are in progress to further boost bilateral defence cooperation, ranging help in upgrade of military equipment of the Vietnamese forces to training them on fighters and submarines.
According to sources, “Talks are in progress to arrive at a common plan. It’s relatively easier on the Akash front since the missile system is 96% indigenous”. The two defence secretaries, incidentally, are slated to meet soon to identify the military projects and equipment under the new $500 million defence line of credit announced by PM Modi in September.
It was in 2013 that India had kicked off the training of a vast number of Vietnamese sailors in “comprehensive underwater combat operations” in Navy submarine school INS Satavahana, Visakhapatnam.
On other fronts, however, India is fast expanding its military training, technology sharing, visits and exchange of experts with Vietnam, joints exercises. Faced with a belligerent China, Vietnam too has been strengthening its military capabilities by inducting Kilo-class submarines and Sukhoi fighters from Russia, both of which have been operated by Indian armed forces for years.
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