India ships BrahMos missiles to Vietnam, ‘teaches’ China a lesson

Mumbai: The Government of India has, according to Livefist Defence (https://www.livefistdefence.com/2017/08/history-made-india-gives-vietnam-the-brahmos.html), decided to supply the famed Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles to Vietnam. The Government of India, however, refused to confirm or deny this development.

But media sources have reported a quote from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang at a press conference on Friday. It says, “The procurement of defence equipment by Vietnam is consistent with the policy of peace and self-defence and is the normal practice in national defence.”

India has a Vietnam-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement with that country. The acquisition of Brahmos will be viewed by China as a move by Vietnam to protect its claims over the disputed South China Sea. Beijing claims the entire sea as its own.

The Brahmos can accelerate to speeds of 2.8 times the speed of sound. It can strike enemy ships 300 km away. It can manoeuvre itself to avoid interception by surface-to-air missiles which may be fired to prevent it from hitting its target. India has begun upgrading this missile technology — something that this newspaper reported recently (http:// www.freepressjournal.in/india/brahmos-outcome-of-successful-india-russia-relations/1051201).

The deal with Vietnam was a policy prescription that the first Nuclear Advisory Board (under the Vajpayee government) made in 2001.  Bharat Karnad was part of this group. He is currently research professor, National Security Studies, at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi.

At the 1.5 Track meeting between India and China, Karnad had made a policy prescription that in view of China supporting the nuclear programme of Pakistan, any strong-minded government in India would now have the option of arming India’s neighbours like Vietnam with the Brahmos missile. This policy prescription was taken up seriously by the government in 2005.

But then talks and procrastination deferred any action. Now the present government has decided to adopt this prescription.  According to some sources, the first batch of the missiles landed in Vietnam a few days ago.

The deal with Vietnam will annoy the Chinese enormously because this small country brilliantly repulsed a Chinese attack in 1987 that China started in order to “teach a lesson” to that country for daring to challenge its bigger neighbour. During the war, China lost as many as 63,000 of its soldiers while Vietnam lost only 26,000. Chinese casualties would have been greater, had it not withdrawn.  After a series of unsuccessful negotiations, China finally signed a border pact with Vietnam. China failed to “teach a lesson” to Vietnam.

In fact, contrary to China’s claims of having a strong army (the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA), it is now becoming clear that the PLA has been thwarted in its military misadventures by Vietnam, Russia and even India.  But more of that later.

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