October 3, 2005Foreign Affairs

To tango with Viet Nam

Take missiles, give naval base?

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Bharat Karnad makes a case for India to cultivate Viet Nam as a strategic ally in East Asia.

China has strategically discomfited India and sought to ‘‘contain’’ it to south Asia by arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons and missiles. Militarily to focus on Pakistan — the Chinese cat’s paw — as India has done is unwise. The cat can be more effectively dealt with by enabling Vietnam — a smaller but spirited tomcat — to rise militarily as a consequential state in China’s immediate neighbourhood.

In the short term, this should reasonably be the prime Indian strategic objective…

In exchange for the conventional warheaded Prithvi now and the promise of more advanced missiles and other such strategic cooperation in the future, Hanoi should be persuaded to allow the Indian Navy a basing option in Cam Ranh Bay, unarguably the finest natural deep water harbour in Asia, to match the planned Chinese naval presence in Gwadar on the Baluchistan coast. [IE]Karnad points out that India should propose to sell sub-300km Prithvi missiles to Viet Nam instead of the BrahMos cruise missiles that it seeks. Given that the sale of such missiles is permitted under the international non-proliferation regime, Karnad argues the only thing that stands in the way of capitalising on this opportunity is a lack of imagination on the part of India’s foreign policy establishment. Sure.

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