Foreign Affairs
India-Vietnam relations: Is Vietnam an Ally of India?

In the ever-changing geopolitical landscape, alliances between nations play a crucial role in shaping regional and global dynamics. One such partnership that has garnered attention in recent years is the relationship between Vietnam and India. Both countries, located in different regions of Asia, have deep historical ties and are bound by common strategic interests. The nature of the Vietnam-India relationship, assess their cooperation in various sectors and examine the implications of this partnership on the regional and global stage.

Vietnam-India shares a long history of cultural, religious, and economic exchanges dating back centuries. The two countries have been connected through maritime trade routes, which facilitated the flow of goods, ideas, and people. The influence of Indian culture, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism, can be seen in Vietnam’s art, architecture, and religious practices.

One of the notable historical links between Vietnam and India is the establishment of the Champa Kingdom in present-day central Vietnam, which had close ties with India from the 4th to the 15th century. Indian traders and religious figures played a significant role in shaping Champa’s culture and economy during this period.

Strategic Partnership

The modern-day Vietnam-India relationship can be characterized as a “strategic partnership.” In 2007, the two countries elevated their ties to this level, signifying a commitment to deepen cooperation in various sectors, including defence, trade, investment, education, and people-to-people contacts.

Defence and Security Cooperation

One of the pillars of the Vietnam-India strategic partnership is defence and security cooperation. Both countries have common concerns regarding regional stability and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region. They share a mutual interest in ensuring the freedom of navigation and upholding international law in the South China Sea, where both Vietnam and India have territorial claims and interests.

India has been providing training and equipment to the Vietnamese military, and both nations have conducted joint naval exercises to enhance their maritime capabilities and strengthen their strategic presence in the region. This defence collaboration aims to counterbalance China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and promote a rules-based international order.

Economic Ties

Economic relations between Vietnam and India have seen steady growth over the years. India is one of Vietnam’s top trading partners in South Asia, and bilateral trade has expanded significantly. Both countries have expressed the desire to enhance economic engagement and have signed various agreements to facilitate trade and investment.

India’s “Act East” policy and Vietnam’s “Look West” policy converge, leading to increased economic cooperation and trade diversification. Industries such as information technology, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and textiles have witnessed greater collaboration, presenting mutual benefits for both nations.

Energy and Infrastructure

Vietnam’s growing energy demand and India’s expertise in the energy sector have paved the way for cooperation in this area. Indian companies have invested in Vietnam’s oil and gas sector, and joint ventures have been established to explore and exploit energy resources.

Additionally, India has extended lines of credit to support Vietnam’s infrastructure development projects. Investments in areas such as power generation, transportation, and urban development aim to boost Vietnam’s economic growth and strengthen its connectivity in the region.

Cultural and People-to-People Exchanges

The historical and cultural connections between Vietnam and India serve as a strong foundation for people-to-people exchanges. Educational and cultural ties have been fostered through academic scholarships, cultural festivals, and exchange programs. These initiatives enhance mutual understanding and strengthen the bond between the two nations.

Geopolitical Implications

The strategic partnership between Vietnam and India has significant geopolitical implications for the Indo-Pacific region. Both countries aim to promote a rules-based order, maintain freedom of navigation, and counterbalance China’s growing influence. Their cooperation enhances regional stability and acts as a counterweight to China’s assertive behaviour in the South China Sea.

As India seeks to expand its influence in Southeast Asia and Vietnam endeavours to diversify its strategic partnerships, their convergence of interests creates a mutually beneficial relationship. By aligning their positions on regional issues, Vietnam and India can amplify their voices on the international stage, shaping regional security and economic architectures.

The Vietnam-India strategic partnership represents a confluence of historical ties, common interests, and shared values. Both countries have recognized the importance of fostering deeper cooperation in various sectors to enhance regional stability and promote economic development. Their defence and security cooperation, economic ties, energy collaborations, and people-to-people exchanges have strengthened the foundation of this partnership.

As the geopolitical landscape continues to evolve, Vietnam and India’s alliance is likely to play a crucial role in shaping the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region. By aligning their strategic interests and bolstering regional security, both nations can contribute to the maintenance of a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific order.

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