China not the arbiter in India-Vietnam relations - The New Indian Express

China not the arbiter in India-Vietnam relations

Published: 25th November 2013 01:51 AM

Last Updated: 25th November 2013 01:51 AM

Communist Party of Vietnam general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s recent visit to New Delhi has taken the relations between the two nations to a new high. As many as eight bilateral agreements were signed during the visit — a reflection of the growing affinity for each other. They are significant for economic, political and strategic reasons. Vietnam has offered India seven oil blocks in the South China Sea for exploration. Of them, three are on an exclusive basis, for which ONGC Videsh Limited would be drafted. Vietnam has become the first non-neighbour nation to receive a $100-million credit line to facilitate purchase of defence equipment from India. All this is proof of their growing relationship.

However, India’s friendship with Vietnam is not new. India provided political and moral support to the Vietnamese people, when they successfully sought liberation from their French colonial masters. India was also against the US military intervention in Vietnam, justified on the ground that it was necessary to arrest the spread of communism. At least one country—China—does not see India-Vietnam relations as something positive. Rather, it sees in it a threat to its hegemony in the region. In October 2011, when the two countries signed an agreement under which ONGC Videsh Ltd. was drafted to explore oil in the South China Sea in an area close to the Vietnamese shores, China raised a banner of protest.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, China’s protest against drafting an Indian company to look for oil in Vietnam’s territory had no legal standing at all. China itself knew the illogic of its stand but it thought it could get away with it because of its new-found status as the world’s second largest economy, all set to replace the US as the world’s most economically powerful nation. But China seemed to underestimate the determination of the Vietnamese, who not only defeated France and the US but also successfully resisted the Chinese in 1979. India and Vietnam have done well to ignore the Chinese protests in their own best interests.

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