A Jittery China likely to pressure Vietnam leader to stop missile deal with India
Vietnam leader Nguyen Phu Trong, who arrives in Beijing on Thursday, will be under pressure to call off reported negotiations with India for purchase of a missile system, sources said. The Indian media has reported that Hanoi is in discussion with Indian authorities to purchase the Akash surface-to-air missile system from New Delhi.
China, which has emerged as a major arms seller, is reluctant to allow another Asian nation to enter into competition, sources said. This is one reason why Beijing has been objecting to India's entry into Nuclear Suppliers' Group, which has the potential of enlarging India's nuclear industry. The focus of Nguyen's talks with Chinese leaders is regional security ahead of the Donald Trump presidency in the United States, which has caused a lot of strain in Beijing. Any move to buy military equipment from India would make Beijing very nervous, sources said.
"If the Indian government genuinely treats its enhancement of military relations with Vietnam as a strategic arrangement or even revenge against Beijing, it will only create disturbances in the region and China will hardly sit with its arms crossed," Global Times, the organ of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a commentary on Wednesday.
On the face of it, China does not mind military ties between Vietnam and India, it said. "Yet such ties should be built for the sake of peace and stability in the region, rather than stirring up troubles or anxiety for others," the paper said betraying the concerns in Beijing.
India provided Vietnam a credit line of $500 million for buying military equipment during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Hanoi in September last year. India is already training the Vietnam Navy personnel in operating the Russian-origin Kilo-class submarine. The government has also asked BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the BrahMos missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam.
The Beijing-based paper did not mention the fact that China has been arming Pakistan, which has no other reason to accumulate arms other than planning to use against India, with sophisticated military equipment. But it rapped countries who feel comfortable about dealing with India.
"Due to geopolitical factors, some nations have been cozying up to India over the years, which to a large extent contributed to India's fruitful development," it said. "New Delhi understands that the best strategy for itself is to continue its collaboration with all parties, instead of picking a side and turning hostile to one another. Otherwise, it might not only turn others' troubles to its own puzzles, but also suffer enormous losses of development opportunities," the commentary said hoping to dissuade India from signing up Hanoi on the missile deal.
Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping and other leaders during his four-day visit to China. He is also expected to discuss the South China Sea dispute. Vietnam is one of the half a dozen countries disputing Chinese claims to much of the South China Sea islands.
"In the past two months, tensions have ratcheted up in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe, and this will deeply influence the relations between Vietnam and China, the US, and the Southeast Asian nation," Zhuang Guotu, dean of the School for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University told the local media. "So in this trip, Nguyen is expected to ascertain the actual situation of China and find a way of developing bilateral relations that both sides can accept," he said.
"India has a dream to grow into a great power. But under today's international circumstances, it will be extraordinarily hard to achieve the goal on its own. What India needs is more pragmatic cooperation with other countries," Global Times added.