Journal : Global Times (Chinese) Date : Author : NA Page No. : 03

Modi visits Vietnam, India stares at China

Wants to sign major defense cooperation, or vie for oil exploration in South China Sea

Global Times special correspondent in India: Yuan Jirong   Global Times correspondent: Guo Fang; Zhen Xiang

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi departed for Hanoi on September 2, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Vietnam in the past15 years. In the opinion of many Indian media, China will become one of the focal point of discussions during meeting between the leaders of India and Vietnam. Among the possible outcomes of this visit are India’s help to Vietnam to build high-speed patrol boats, as well as India getting more oil exploration rights in South China Sea. The Hindu reported that there may be a perceptible change in India’s South China Sea policy.  Many other media believe that India’s ambitions don’t stop at that; it hopes to play a more important role in South Asia and the Pacific. Wang Dehua, a South Asia expert from China told  the Global Times reporter on September that  India does have an “Indo-Pacific strategy”,  it does not want China to play bigger role in Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean; but maintaining balance has also been a policy which India has been upholding all along. Because India clearly knows that confrontation with China is not beneficial for it.

“Vietnam is a friendly country, we value mutual relations”, on September 2, Modi on “Facebook” greeted the Vietnamese people on their National Day, and warmly praised that the relations between the two countries will benefit Asia and other parts of the world. That night, he boarded the flight and arrived in Hanoi. According to a report in Financial Times of UK, Modi will meet Vietnam’s top four leaders including the Prime Minister, President, National Assembly Chairman and General Secretary of the CPV Central Committee on September 3.

According to reports, the two countries are expected to sign agreements worth $ 100 million to help Vietnam build high-speed patrol boats. Other possible items on agenda also include a plan to base Indian naval ships in Vietnam and Hanoi’s long-pending request to buy BrahMos short-range cruise missiles. Financial Times also mentioned that earlier this year, India had disclosed plans to set up a satellite tracking and imaging center in South Vietnam.

“Modi visits Vietnam, staring at China,” said an Indian website. Vietnam is the pillar of India’s Act East policy; and also India’s cooperative partner to get involved in the South China Sea. The Tribune newspaper of India reported that during Modi’s visit to Vietnam this time, South China Sea issue may be one of the main topics of discussion between the two countries. In the South China Sea, Vietnam has already allocated some oil blocks to India for mining. Indian Express says that during this visit, the Indian company is likely to announce new projects. An official revealed that India might get more oil blocks. India may also provide four patrol boats to Vietnam. Energy, defense and strategic relationship are the most crucial topics, which will attract the attention of Beijing.

The Hindu says Modi’s Vietnam visit is being seen as part of a “perceptible shift” in India’s policy towards the South China Sea. Miss. Saheli, a researcher at the East Asian Studies Center at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Indian Express on September 2 that, like Vietnam, India has vital interests in the South China Sea; half of India’s trade has to pass through the South China Sea.

However, as per Wall Street Journal, India’s “ambitions” are not limited to the South China Sea. The newspaper commented that Modi’s visit is ostensibly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of strategic partnership between India and Vietnam, but at this tense moment in Sino-Indian relations, Modi’s visit will also remind China that India is no longer hesitant to expand its presence in China’s periphery. Mr. Pant, a Professor at King’s College, University of London said that Vietnam is the key to India’s Act East policy, Vietnam is important to India may be like as Pakistan is important to China. India’s Live Mint newspaper quoted the country’s China expert Ravi Bhoothalingam from the Institute of Chinese Studies, saying that political message conveyed by Modi’s visit would be that India can make the same statement in China’s “backyard” just like China does in India’s “backyard.” Hindustan Times reported that India does not need to be secretive about playing a stronger role in the Asia-Pacific.

Some US media reported that some people in Vietnam believe Modi’s visit to Vietnam before going to Hangzhou is a signal to China, however, others say the visit has little impact on China. According to Ngo Xuan Binh, director of the Institute of Indian and Southwest Asian Studies in Hanoi, defense is a key part of traditional Hanoi-New Delhi relations.

Wang Dehua, director of the Institute for Southern and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies said to Global Times reporter on September 2 that after India strengthened its Look East strategy, it was beneficial to pressurize  China to make concessions on border and Pakistan issues , which has always been a mistaken view of India. But the possibility of confronting China jointly with Vietnam, as well as completely shifting towards the United States is relatively small. Proceeding from the considerations of  its own interests, it is impossible that India will confront China.

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