India has taken the first tentative steps towards establishing a “sustainable maritime presence” in the South China Sea, not far from the Chinese mainland.
With Indo-Vietnamese naval cooperation set to strengthen in the days to come, Vietnam has allowed Indian naval warships to drop anchor at its Nha Trang port in southern Vietnam during naval goodwill visits, well-placed government sources have confirmed.
Sources said the Indian Navy was perhaps the only foreign Navy in recent times to have been given this privilege by the Vietna-mese at a port other than Halong Bay, near Hanoi.
“The move will give India the key to a sustainable presence in the South China Sea,” said a government source. This will enable India to play a bigger role in the strategic Southeast Asian region which overlooks key shipping lines.
India, too, is set to offer naval facilities for training and capacity-building to Vietnam. The Commander-in-Chief of the Vietnam People’s Navy, Vice-Admi-ral and deputy minister Nguyen Van Hien, is scheduled to visit New Delhi, Mumbai and Visakhapat-nam during his visit starting Monday to witness Indian naval capabilities.
“India could also offer its experience in ship-building to Vietnam, which currently has a small Navy,” said a government source.
China will no doubt be closely monitoring the Indo-Vietnamese naval co-operation.
Both India and Vietnam are wary of growing Chinese military capabilities. Both countries have been victims of Chinese military aggression in past.