The two countries are now considering joining hands in maintenance and co-production

: India and Vietnam will be on the road to further consolidate their defence ties, with the addition of a fourth pillar, by the time Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong visits the country next month, said diplomatic sources.

Security ties between the two countries have always been close but they began accelerating in the field of defence two years ago when the Chinese objected to Vietnam inviting India to prospect for oil in a contested portion of the South China Sea.

Since then New Delhi has overcome its own inhibitions and agreed to partner with Vietnam in areas of submarine and fighter aircraft training and transfer of medium-sized warships. It helped that Russia supplied those submarines and fighters, both especially oriented for maritime warfare, as well as frigates.

Given the commonality of the equipment, India and Vietnam are now considering joining hands in maintenance and co-production.

Frequent interactions at the levels of Union Ministers, high ranking Vietnamese Communist Party leaders, senior officials, service chiefs and even businessmen, have helped provide a ballast to India-Vietnamese ties.

The two sides cooperate with each other in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) where Vietnam is a member and India an observer.

Trade ties have grown modestly since India operationalised the goods portion of the Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN, and could expand further when the services and investment aspects come into play next year.

After being a net provider in defence know-how, India will be seeking to learn from Vietnam’s experience with the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).

Vietnam could also be counted upon for political assistance in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP) negotiations launched by ASEAN and its FTA partners in Phnom Penh last year.

The two countries have also been making gestures signalling proximity. Indian warships visited Nha Trang port, located near the strategic Cam Ranh Bay, and Politburo members of Vietnam’s Communist Party have regularly held consultations with top Indian leadership.

Earlier this year, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minhby his side, reiterated India’s commitment to continue collaboration with Vietnam in oil exploration in the disputed Phu Kanh Basin, to which China has also laid claim.

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