The discussions follow the review of the bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries in early December last year. During the review, India also agreed to train Vietnamese pilots
for the Russian Su-30 aircraft, a variant of which is the mainstay of the Indian Air Force, and help in the maintenance of the aircraft.
India and Vietnam have been steadily ramping up their strategic relationship over the years. Last year, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China in September, India elevated its relationship with Vietnam from "Strategic Partnership" to "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership" while significantly deepening defence and security engagement with the southeast Asian nation. At raison d'être for the enhanced cooperation was "to advance our (India and Vietnam's) common interests".
India had also offered a $500-million defence credit line part of which will be used for the construction of offshore patrol boats by Larsen & Toubro and the Vietnam Border Guards.
The discussions come even as China continues to flex its muscles in the South China Sea (SCS). As the world welcomed the New Year, China's first and only aircraft carrier, Liaoning, was conducting exercises in the SCS with a flotilla of naval ships amid tensions with the US following President-elect Donald Trump's telephone call
to the Taiwanese President. While the recent show of force was not aimed at Vietnam, the country is unlikely to be amused by increased presence of Chinese military vessels in the area given that China's claims in the SCS extend into the exclusive economic zone claimed by Vietnam.
Unlike other claimant states involved in disputes in the SCS, Vietnam has been especially proactive in asserting its claims. According to a Forbes magazine report
in late November last year, Vietnam, till that date, had landfilled 27 islets, more than any other claimant. Further, citing the US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, the report said that the country was investing in the extension of the Spratly Island’s runway from 2,500 to 3,300 feet. This would make it suitable for operating military and surveillance aircraft as well as building associated infrastructure, such as hangars.
Last year also saw China stymie India's attempts to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and block its move to list Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. India had reacted sharply to China's resistance to its proposal at the UN on December 30, saying Beijing's decision reflected the prevalence of double standards in the fight against terrorism. China's "technical hold" on New Delhi's move on Azhar had expired on December 31 and India or any other UNSC member country has to now make a fresh listing request
for the terrorist to be banned by the global body.