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All eyes on China: PM Narendra Modi’s visit is strong indication of India showing its friendship, camaraderie, solidarity with Vietnam

Modi's Hanoi stopover, which will make him the first Indian prime minister to visit Vietnam in over a decade, comes one day before he'll join the Group of 20 Summit in Hangzhou, China

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FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in New Delhi, India, Aug. 15, 2016. Image source: VOA
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September 2, 2016: Hanoi’s need for bolstered maritime defenses against an increasingly assertive China in the territorially disputed South China Sea is expected to be high on the agenda when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Vietnam later this week.

Professor Sukh Doe Muni, fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, says the Indian leader’s arrival Friday comes as “the question of South China Sea has come up in a big way.”

FILE - A Chinese Coast Guard ship (top) is seen near a Vietnam Marine Guard vessel in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam, May 14, 2014.
FILE – A Chinese Coast Guard ship (top) is seen near a Vietnam Marine Guard vessel in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) offshore of Vietnam, May 14, 2014. Image source: VOA

“Narendra Modi’s visit actually is the strong indication of India showing its friendship, camaraderie, solidarity with Vietnam, particularly at the time when Vietnam is facing lots of pressure in the region from China,” said the former senior Indian diplomat, who once worked in Southeast Asia.

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Modi’s Hanoi stopover, which will make him the first Indian prime minister to visit Vietnam in over a decade, comes one day before he’ll join the Group of 20 Summit in Hangzhou, China.

According to Ngo Xuan Binh, director of the Institute of Indian and Southwest Asian Studies in Hanoi, defense is a key part of “traditional” Hanoi-New Delhi relations, and there are mixed reactions among the Vietnamese public.

“Some say Modi’s visit to Vietnam before participating in the G20 summit shows how important Hanoi is to New Delhi, and it’s also a signal to China,” he said. “However, others say the visit has little impact on China, as it is a big partner of Beijing in many aspects.”

FILE - India's Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles, mounted on a truck, pass by during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, January 23, 2006.
FILE – India’s Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles, mounted on a truck, pass by during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, January 23, 2006. Image source: VOA

But Binh also says the recent tribunal ruling in The Hague, which dealt a legal blow to China’s maritime claims, may bring India and Vietnam into closer diplomatic orbit. Vietnamese experts on Indian affairs, for example, have cited sources claiming that Hanoi entered high-level negotiations in June with New Delhi to buy BrahMos cruise missiles — the world’s highest-velocity anti-ship cruise missile currently in operation — which has prompted concerns from Beijing.

According to IHS Janes, “talks in Hanoi included the option of stationing a team of Indian technicians in the Southeast Asian country to offer the Vietnamese assistance in using the [BrahMos] system,” and that New Delhi officials suggest the weapons transfer might be imminent.

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Vietnamese media quoted Indian Ambassador to Hanoi P. Harish as saying this week that New Delhi also hopes to reach agreements with Hanoi in areas of cooperation such as science, technology, defense, and security. But it is unclear whether the two sides will sign any deal on BrahMos.

The Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute recently reported that Vietnam was the eighth-largest arms importer in the world from 2011 to 2015, up from 43rd in the previous five-year period and that India is one of the largest weapons exporters to Vietnam.

Rising tensions over the South China Sea maritime region in recent years have driven Vietnam to buy arms to defend itself. (VOA)

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.