Last week, India and Vietnam held the latest iteration of their defense policy dialogue. Although the dialogue was just one of a series of scheduled defense engagements by the two sides in 2018, it once again put the spotlight on growing security ties between the two Asian states.
As I have noted before in these pages, Vietnam and India have been looking to advance their existing defense relationship as part of their wider ties, which were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016. Defense ties have grown in recent years to include not just the traditional components in this realm of ties like exchanges and port calls but also the training of personnel, capacity-building funding and equipment, coast guard collaboration, and pacts on areas such as white shipping and outer space.
One of the interactions within the defense relationship is the defense policy dialogue. The dialogue, held annually at the deputy ministerial level, is conducted by both sides alternating between their two countries. The last iteration of the dialogue was held in August 2018 in New Delhi, India, and both sides
Last week, the security aspect of relations was in the headlines again with the holding of the latest iteration of the Vietnam-India defense policy dialogue. The 12th Vietnam-India defense policy dialogue took place in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on October 3, and it was co-chaired by Vietnam’s deputy defense minister, Nguyen Chi Vinh, and Ajay Kumar, the secretary of the defense department in the Indian defense ministry, who was on a working visit to the Southeast Asian state.
As is usually the case, the dialogue provided an opportunity for both sides to discuss the state of their bilateral ties as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. And with respect to advancing future cooperation, per the official account of the deliberations by Vietnam’s defense ministry, the two sides agreed to advance previous cooperation agreements in areas such as personnel training, defense industry, and military scientific research, as well as intensify aspects of security collaboration such as high-ranking delegation exchanges.
Beyond the defense policy dialogue itself, Kumar and his delegation also had other interactions as well. For instance, per the defense ministry, he also met with Ngo Xuan Lich on October 4. During that meeting, both sides discussed the outcomes of the dialogue as well as wider issues in their relationship, including India’s support for Vietnam’s non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council from 2020-2021 and Vietnam’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2020.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics were publicly disclosed about the private deliberations between the two sides. Nonetheless, the defense policy dialogue will continue to be among the interactions to watch to get a sense of Vietnam-India defense ties as well as the wider bilateral relationship.