September 17, 2016
New Delhi announced recently that it would provide a credit line of 500 million dollars to Vietnam as a part of its expected defence cooperation, it has been reported by several wire services. One wonders miser rulers of India are spending such huge amounts on defending Vietnam and the South China Sea where Beijing has deployed its Stealth submarines and is in a position to advance coercive posture towards US Naval assets.
Delhi announced that it intends to cut a deal with Vietnam to boost ‘defence’ ties to counter Beijing’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Hanoi. Indian bid to support Vietnam against China, in simple words, is not understandable as India in no manner poses a formidable threat to China in the Asian region.
Indian policy as it appears is to contain China’s military and maritime activity in main waterways of South China Sea. Some of the global fame journalists, including Christina Lamb, Christiane Amanpour, Joshua Hammer and Jane Perlez articulate CIA or the Pentagon’s futuristic policies. Jane Perlez, an Australian-born, is mostly stationed in those regions where conflicts are expected to develop. She had covered most of the 2nd Afghan war and Iraq war before reporting the Arab Spring and events in the Middle East. Currently, she is covering South China region with specific reference to Chinese naval drills.
Fresh copies of publications of Jane Perlez are prominently used by Indian print and electronic media. There has been so far no precedent that Chinese naval forces had placed any blockade against India in the South China Sea but as the events are being unfolded and things are being reported by Perlez-brand of top correspondents, India does fear a threat to its flow of major exports through South Chinese waterways by Chinese military. Jane Perlez reported for the NYT from Hangzhou an unusually large number of Chinese vessels have been positioned close to a disputed reef in South China Sea near the coast of the Philippines for the last week despite warnings by the US naval forces. The Philippine defence department has photographs of four Chinese Coast Guard ships, and six other vessels, less than a mile from Scarborough Shoal which is claimed by the Philippines and China, the defense minister, Delfin Lorenzana, said in an interview. According to her, the presence of the Chinese ships during the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hangzhou, China, where the US President Obama and President Xi Jinping met, seemed particularly provocative.
According to Jane, Obama specifically warned Xi at a meeting in Washington in March not to start building an artificial island at Scarborough Shoal. The White House officials said that Obama planned to deliver the same message to Xi at their meeting in Hangzhou.
Scarborough Shoal has been the center of attention as one of the most desirable places in the South China Sea for the Chinese to convert into an artificial island. It is close to military bases in the Philippines where the US military has access.
In the last several years, the Chinese have built a group of artificial islands with military capabilities in the Spratly Archipelago, not far from Scarborough Shoal. The US military officials fear that China plans to build a bigger military base on Scarborough Shoal, which lies about 140 miles from the coast of the Philippines. In a sweeping ruling against China on the South China Sea in July, an international tribunal in the Hague focused on Scarborough Shoal.
The tribunal said China had violated international law by interfering with fishing, endangering ships of the Philippines and failing to protect the marine environment at the shoal, the tribunal said.
Some of the Chinese vessels spotted off the shoal recently could be dredges to do preliminary building work, said Lorenzana, the defence minister. One of the vessels was actually in the mouth of the shoal, he added. Four Chinese Coast Guard vessels have been permanently positioned near the shoal, an area of about 56 square miles, in recent weeks, he said.
The six other vessels, one with what looked like large cable-laying machinery, were new additions spotted by Filipino fishermen last week, he said. A Philippine Navy plane was then dispatched to take photos. The six vessels that look like civilian ships could be navy ships “masquerading” as other ships, Lorenzana said. The Chinese ambassador in Manila had been warned about the ships, but the envoy denied that Chinese vessels were in the vicinity of the shoal, Lorenzana said. Same day when President Obama hurled polite but diplomatically warning to China Indian Premier Modi made the offer of 500 million dollars to Vietnam.
He did not specify details of the arrangement, but traditionally such lines of credit would oblige Vietnam to sign contracts with Indian companies. About 50 percent of India’s trade passes through the South China Sea, where Beijing has built up islands and outcrops capable of supporting military activities to the chagrin of Vietnam and other claimants. Vietnam’s Prime Minister praised its close friendship with India during his visit – the first by an Indian premier in 15 years and part of New Delhi’s “Act East Policy” to strengthen economic and security ties with east Asian neighbours.
“(We) discussed matters concerning the East Sea,” Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was quoted as saying. “All sides must peacefully solve East Sea disputes based on international laws,” he added of the contested waterway, where the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also have claims. The latest defence deal follows a similar announcement in 2014 when India agreed to give Vietnam a $100 million line of credit to buy naval patrol boats, a move that likely rankled China.
Beijing has previously criticised India’s cooperation with Vietnam in the defence sector, and India has its own frosty history with China following a brief but bloody border war in 1962. Vietnam was the eighth largest importer of arms between 2011 and 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, up from a rank of 43 in the previous five-year period.
The communist country is increasingly looking to new partners to replace or update Soviet-era military equipment, including the United States which lifted a Cold War-era arms embargo in May. Vietnam expert Carl Thayer said Modi’s trip was Vietnam’s way of showing it has other friends in the region. “Vietnam is playing that game: ‘Come on, China, get close to us, cooperate, but if you don’t we can move to India or we’ll go talk to you after the Prime Minister of India has just been through,'” he said.
India and Vietnam signed a dozen agreements in all, including a $5 million deal to build a technology park in the coastal resort city of Nha Trang. Vietnam is pushing to become a key player in Southeast Asia’s tech scene as it looks to diversify exports beyond manufacturing and agriculture,” reported wire services. Against this surfacing scenario South-East Asian military alliance between the United States and India appeared as the new shape of SEATO.
Chinese major news organisations commenting on these development just said, “Beijing Ignored” such warning or developments as it was confident of its ‘regional policies’. However, Russia has neither condemned nor opposed Chinese support to North Korea for its launch of SLBM. The State Department refused to comment on the allegations that China provided submarine launched ballistic missiles to North Korea with State Department spokesman John Kirby saying “I’m not able to speak on intelligence matters here from the podium.”