NEW DELHI: The proposal to train Vietnamese pilots of Sukhoi fighter jets in India has hit financial glitches. The plan has been under negotiation for several years now and is important from India’s point of view to counter an assertive China in South China Sea.
India has already trained 550 Vietnamese submariners in Visakhapatnam to operate its six newly acquired Russian-built kilo-attack submarines under a $2.6 billion deal. Vietnam, known for its land forces trained for guerrilla warfare, is steadily augmenting its naval and air power; something that India will be happy to help with.
An official said, “We are working on various training models for Vietnamese Sukhoi pilots. Financial matters are under consideration.” Vietnam has Russian-built Su-30MK2 fighter jets in its inventory and; China also has a lot of Russian fighter jets and planes reverse engineered from them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced $500 million line of credit for defence purchases. It is not clear if it is in addition to the $100 million announced earlier. The financial considerations are also if the fighter jet training will be included in this credit line or would be apart from it. “We should be able to work it out soon,” sources said.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Vietnam’s defence procurement have registered a 700 per cent jump in 2015.
Vietnam has traditionally cooperated with Russia on defence matter but its quest to modernise its forces has found ally in India. New Delhi also stands to gain from Vietnam’s geo-strategic location and stake in South China Sea, which conduits a large amount of Indian trade. Besides trade, India also has oil exploration going on in the region.
Hence, Chinese aggressive posturing in the region has steered India to help Vietnam build a potent military to secure its 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. The South China Sea has figured in the Strategic Dialogue between the two countries earlier this year.