Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang

Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang will visit India March 2-4, officials sources here confirmed to TOI Monday. The visit, which is meant to mark the completion of 45 years of establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Vietnam, will see the 2 countries reiterating commitment - amid reports of further Chinese military build-up in South China Sea (SCS) - to further expanding their defence and security ties. 

Vietnam sees defence and security cooperation as the most significant pillar of its strategic partnership with India. The 2 countries recently held their first joint military exercise titled VINBAX. The visit by the Vietnam President will come only a month after the visit to India by Vietnam PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc who was here to attend the India-ASEAN Commemorative Summit and Republic Day parade along with other Asean leaders. Phuc had discussed the security situation in SCS in his bilateral meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

India and Vietnam both see themselves as victims of China’s creeping territorial aggression and the growing strategic proximity has reflected in the spurt of high-level visits and exchanges between the 2 countries. TOI had first reported on January 7 that, underlining the indispensability of Vietnam to India’s Act East Policy, there was going to be a back to back visit to India by Vietnam PM and President.

It is a sign of the significance the two countries attach to the relationship that the 45th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations will see a presidential visit. In 2012, it was the then MoS in the foreign ministry, E Ahamed, who visited Hanoi to mark the 40th anniversary.

Vietnam remains concerned about the militarisation of artificial islands constructed by China in SCS, which Vietnam calls East Sea, and Quang only last week discussed the security situation in the region with US President Donald Trump. Apart from seeking more military assistance from India, which includes training for its naval officers and air force personnel, Hanoi is also encouraging India to further expand its presence in SCS for exploration of oil and gas off the coast of Vietnam.

Quang's visit will also be significant because he is second in the hierarchy of the communist party and is likely to take over as the general secretary, the most powerful position in the country, after a few years.