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VIETNAM: Chief of General Staff visits India in September 2013:

Paper No. 5569                 Dated 28-Sep-2013

By Dr Subhash Kapila

In manifestation of the growing Vietnam-India strategic and defence ties, the Vietnamese Chief of General Staff of Vietnam Peoples Army, Senior Lieutenant General Do Bo Tuy visited India from September 24-27 2013. He led a 14 member military delegation to visit India.

During his visit to New Delhi the Vietnamese General had discussions with the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne on the reinforcing of existing defence ties between India and Vietnam. During this meeting it was emphasised that Vietnam was India’s most significant strategic partner in South East Asia.

The Vietnamese General also had discussions with the Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff and the Vice Chief of Naval Staff.

The scheduled meetings with the Indian Defence Minister and Indian National Security Adviser could not take place as the former was hospitalised and the latter was leaving for Washington along with the Indian Prime Minister.

However a meeting with the Secretary Ministry of Defence took place.

The Vietnamese Army Chief of General Staff visited two important military installations during his visit to India following his discussions in New Delhi with the Indian military hierarchy. These were to the Indian Air Force Base at Hindon in the vicinity of New Delhi and to Headquarters of Indian Navy Eastern Naval Command at Vishakhapatnam and Indian naval combat assets located there.

The Indian Air Force newly acquired strategic force projection assets in terms of transport aircraft like the US C-130Js and the US C-17 giant Globemaster are located at Hindon. The Vietnamese Armed Forces Chief would have gained first hand exposure to India’s aerial capabilities in this dimension.

The visit of the Vietnamese Army Chief of General Staff to the Indian Navy Headquarters Eastern Naval Command is more significant. It needs to be recalled that India’s Headquarters Eastern Naval Command is operationally tasked for responsibilities of securing India’s maritime interests in the Indo-Pacific Region. In naval terms the Indo Pacific Region needs to be taken as Eastern Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. The latter includes the South China Sea which is of critical security concern to Vietnam in the context of escalation of South China Sea disputes by China.

Stressed many times over in my past papers are the imperatives of reinforcing and adding more firm contours to the Vietnam-India Strategic Partnership. India needs to play a significant role in the capacity-building of the Vietnamese Armed Forces, especially of the Vietnamese Navy and the Vietnamese Air Force.

Vietnam and India have serious border disputes with China and both are victims of Chinese military provocations. Strategic convergences should therefore be a natural outcome to bind Vietnam and India. The Vietnam-India Strategic Partnership cannot be in bondage to India’s ultra-sensitivity to China’s strategic concerns.

On the side-lines of his defence visits and discussions in India, the Vietnamese General paid a visit to Bodh Gaya. India’s Buddhist spiritual and cultural ties with South East Asian countries are an additional bond to forge strong ties with South East Asia.