With an eye on China, India in talks with Vietnam for sale of Akash missile systems
Worried over China's belligerence in the Asia-Pacific region, India and Vietnam are now engaged in discussions over the possible sale of indigenously developed Akash surface-to-air missile systems.
As China continues to thwart India's membership bid at 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and India's proposal at the United Nations to list Masood Azhar as a designated terrorist, while also stepping up its naval forays into the Indian Ocean Region, New Delhi is responding by strengthening military ties with countries in China's own backyard.
The expanding "strategic and military partnership" with Japan and Vietnam, in particular, has emerged a major thrust area.
The discussions under way with Vietnam on the Akash area defence missiles, which have an interception range of 25-km against hostile aircraft, helicopters and drones, come after India earlier offered BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and Varunastra anti-submarine torpedoes to the country, Times of India reports quoting its sources.
India will also begin training Vietnamese fighter pilots on its Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets from this year, much like it has been tutoring sailors from that country on the intricate art of operating Kilo-class submarines for the last three years, the reports adds.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar says “Vietnam is a friendly country.” and several initiatives are in progress to further step up bilateral defence cooperation, ranging from help in upgrade of military equipment of the Vietnamese forces to training them on fighters and submarines.
Vietnam has shown "deep interest" in the acquisition of Akash missiles, asking for transfer of technology and joint production of the air defence system, reports TOI quoting 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," said a source.
It was in 2013 that India had kicked off the training of a large number of Vietnamese sailors in "comprehensive underwater combat operations'' in Navy submarine school INS Satavahana, Visakhapatnam.