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India’s decision to gift its in-service missile corvette, INS Kirpan, to Vietnam has become a focal point in the complex geopolitical dynamics of the Indo-Pacific region. The move reflects the strengthening bilateral strategic and defense partnership between India and Vietnam, driven by common concerns over China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea. However, this gesture has not been received well by China, and state-owned Chinese media outlets have accused India of harboring desires to instigate armed conflicts in the region.

The background of tensions between China and Vietnam dates back to the late 1970s when China launched an offensive in response to Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia in 1978. Since then, the Sino-Vietnam relationship has been marked by friction and mistrust. Against this backdrop, India’s gift of INS Kirpan to Vietnam has added fuel to the fire, as it is seen as a strategic move to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the South China Sea.

China’s reaction to India’s gesture comes in the wake of its ambitious territorial claims and increasingly aggressive behavior in the disputed waters. The South China Sea, a vital waterway through which a significant portion of global trade passes, has been a hotbed of tension and territorial disputes involving China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other neighboring countries. India’s involvement in the region through defense partnerships is perceived as a challenge to China’s strategic interests.

Chinese media outlets have gone on the offensive, accusing India of using military hardware gifts as a means to boost its weapons export market. They claim that India seeks to expand its influence by offering the sale of advanced frigates and destroyers, manufactured domestically. The concerns raised by Chinese media are driven by a fear of India gaining a stronger foothold in the region’s defense sector, potentially altering the balance of power.

India and Vietnam’s defense ties have been growing steadily in recent years. The discussions for the sale of the Indo-Russian BrahMos Supersonic cruise missile to Vietnam for use as a coastal defense battery and the interest in India’s Akash NG Air defense system, with Vietnam seeking technology transfer for local manufacturing, are indicative of the deepening strategic cooperation between the two nations.

The BrahMos Supersonic cruise missile is a formidable weapon system, jointly developed by India and Russia, known for its precision and versatility. For Vietnam, acquiring this missile system is a crucial step in bolstering its coastal defense capabilities in the face of regional security challenges.

Similarly, the Akash NG Air defense system, developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), is highly sought after by Vietnam as it seeks to modernize its aging Russian air defense systems. India’s willingness to transfer technology for local production indicates a commitment to strengthening Vietnam’s indigenous defense capabilities.

India’s defense cooperation with Vietnam is firmly rooted in mutual interests and shared concerns over regional stability and security. While the Indian government has consistently emphasized its commitment to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, it cannot be denied that the region is witnessing heightened geopolitical competition, particularly with China’s expanding military presence.

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