India will use a Kilo-class submarine to train Vietnamese sailors in submarine warfare. (Sebastian D'Douza/Agence France-Presse)
NEW DELHI — India will train Vietnamese sailors in submarine warfare as part of its effort to reinforce defense ties with countries across the Asia-Pacific region.
The development is expected to disturb Beijing, analysts and officials said, and will be closely watched by Pakistan.
Vietnam has ordered six Kilo-class subs from the Russian Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg to add to its of two South Korean-made Yugo-class midget submarines. India has operated Kilos since 1986.
Like India, Vietnam has fought with China and is fast emerging as an economic power in the region, said an Indian Navy official, who said New Delhi should aid Vietnam in any way it can.
“The Sino-Indian ties are poised in a very delicate phase with many ups and downs,” said Probal Ghosh, a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation. “This will definitely affect the ties, even though China is well aware that we are supporting Vietnam for strategic gains against China.
“There is a likelihood that it may prove to be the impetus for China to consider giving Pakistan a nuclear submarine,” Ghosh added. “Such a move will really up the ante and will affect India’s security calculus considerably.”
However, analysts agree that India should warm ties with Vietnam, despite Beijing’s response.
“It is important that we engage with Vietnam,” defense analyst Anil Jai Singh said. “It is an emerging country in the region; we have always had good relations with it and we must engage economically, politically and militarily to develop a strong bilateral relationship. We are doing this independent of the US, but they would not be averse to our growing relationship. If China gets disturbed, well, so be it.”
A diplomat from the Vietnamese Embassy here said defense cooperation is a pillar of strategic partnership between the two countries, which he said will increase further to include joint development of defense projects but declined to specify details.
India will train Vietnamese sailors to operate submarines and to engage in underwater warfare, said the Indian Navy source, adding that the training would take place on a Russian-made Kilo sub.
India has also decided to give a $100 million credit line to Vietnam to buy military equipment, including offshore patrol vessels, an Indian Defence Ministry source said, but a deal hasn’t been formalized.
The extension of military credit would be the first India has given to any country.
India and Vietnam are jointly exploring for oil in the Phu Kanh basin of the South China Sea, which Vietnam says is within its zone of influence, a claim China disputes.
Vietnam has been negotiating with India to acquire the supersonic anti-ship cruise missile BrahMos, which is built jointly here by India and Russia. No deal has been finalized to sell the missile, which has land and sea versions, with an air version under development.
Sale of the BrahMos is questionable because Russia has friendly relations with China, and there could be issues relating to international controls. The BrahMos’ 290-kilometer range could be extended beyond 300 kilometers, putting it under Missile Technology Control Regime restrictions.
“I think the restrictive regimes would preclude any such thing happening in the near future. India itself would consider such a possibility very carefully,” Singh said.
As their ties strengthen, “India could ... consider ... including Vietnam in the future network-centric warfare program,”defense analyst Nitin Mehta said. ■