With China watching, India in talks to sell Akash missile to Vietnam


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In a growing strategic embrace with Hanoi, India has said it is in talks to sell for the first time its home-grown short-range surface-to-air Akash missiles to Vietnam. The sale of missile, if it happens, will be deeply resented by Beijing which has been resentful of the burgeoning military ties between New Delhi and Hanoi.

“We are talking to a number of countries and one of them is none other than Vietnam,” state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization’s chairman S. Christopher told the media in Bengaluru on the margin of an air show where the DRDO is showcasing its missile programmes and other key projects, including a light combat fighter.

If the talks fructify, this will be the first time India will be selling its missiles to a Southeast Asian country with which China has a long-standing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.In the face of an assertive China, India has been helping Vietnam to ramp up its military hardware and train Vietnamese pilots and patrol vessels.  The move is also in sync with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to establish India as an arms exporter.

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Vietnam, which has multi-faceted relations with India, has of late emerged as a lucrative market for defence hardware export as it is shoring up its military to secure its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone in the backdrop of China’sgrowing assertiveness in staking its claims in the South China Sea.Vietnam has acquired kilo-class submarines from Russia and defence experts view Vietnam as a growing market for fighter jets and more advanced missile systems.

India is also in discussions with Vietnam for supplying its Brahmos supersonic missile with a range of 290 km.India has already sold interceptor boats and patrol vessels to Vietnam and helped the latter by training its pilots to operate Su-30 Russian fighter planes.In 2016, Mr Modi had announced a $500 million credit line to Vietnam to buy defence equipment, which was in addition to a $100 million given previously to help it buy interceptor patrol boats.

The DRDO’s chief also said India is trying to identify foreign customers for such weapons as the light combat aircraft (LCA), pilotless aircraft small surveillance plane and some other variety of missiles of various ranges.

For the first time, the DRDO outdoor display showcased a real Tejas LCA aircraft at Aero India show in Bengaluru.Besides defence hardware and training, India is also bolstering its cooperation with Vietnam in outer space, an area which has civilian as well as military applications. The Indian cabinet had at a meeting chaired by Modi on February 8 this year has been apprised of the Framework Agreement between India and Vietnam on cooperation in exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes. The Agreement has been signed on September 3 last year.

The Framework Agreement will enable use of satellite-transmitted images in areas of cooperation such as space science, technology and applications including remote sensing of the earth, satellite communication and satellite-based navigation, planetary exploration and 4 and ground system.India will Vietnam set up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam that will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region  including China and the South China Sea.