Vietnam Inks Its First Ever ‘Mutual Logistics Support’ Pact With India, Vows to Expand Defence Ties
India is backing Vietnam in its ongoing maritime disputes with China over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. At last month’s Quad Summit in Tokyo, the leaders of Australia, Japan, India and the US said that they “oppose any coercive, provocative or unilateral actions” to change the status quo in the South China Sea.
Vietnam and India on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ‘Mutual Logistics Support
’, marking the first time Hanoi has signed such an agreement with any country.
The pact would allow Indian warships and military planes to seek fuel supplies and other support at Vietnamese facilities. The same applies for Vietnamese vessels and planes calling on Indian ports.
The signing of the crucial pact came during the ongoing three-day visit of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to the south-east Asian nation, as per a statement released by India's Ministry of Defence.
Singh held bilateral consultations with Vietnam’s Minister of National Defence General Phan Van Giang in Hanoi.
“Our close defence and security cooperation is an important factor of stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Singh said.
Singh also said that defence cooperation was a “key pillar” of India-Vietnam ties, and described Hanoi as “an important partner” in New Delhi’s Act East Policy. The two nations entered into a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” in 2016.
According to the official statement, the two countries have also finalised the ‘Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030’, which aims at expanding the “scope and scale” of bilateral defence cooperation.
The two ministers also held discussions on the “early finalisation” of the $500 million line of defence credit India is offering Vietnam, which would involve Hanoi procuring military-grade equipment from New Delhi on preferential terms.
The Indian defence minister is also slated to hold discussions with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh during the ongoing trip.
Singh is also set to preside over a ceremony for the formal handover of 12 high-speed guard boats at Hong Ha Shipyard in Hai Phong, a naval facility near Hanoi. The boats have been funded through a $100 million credit line from the Indian government.
The defence minister will also visit a Vietnamese army training institution in the central coastal city of Nha Trang, as well as an ‘Army Software Park’ at the Telecommunication University. The park is being bankrolled by New Delhi through a $5 million grant to Hanoi.
The strengthening of defence ties between Vietnam and India also come against the backdrop of concerns expressed among India’s Quad partners, including Australia
and the US, over a new naval facility at the Ream naval base in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville province on the Gulf of Thailand.
Both China and Cambodia have denied US media reports that the Ream facility is meant for the “exclusive” use of the Chinese military.