India’s dilemma is that it seeks to be a potential global power without being able to establish itself firmly as the predominant country in the subcontinent, former foreign secretary of India Krishnan Srinivasan said. “The paradox is if India has to be the leading power in South Asia, the strategists feel it will have to prevent any Chinese advances into South and South-East Asia.
“There is lots of convergence of Vietnamese and Indian interests since both are concerned with checking the advances of China in a southernly direction,” he said. Srinivasan was speaking at a discussion on India’s strategic relations with Vietnam organised by the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce here.
He said both India and Vietnam have border issues with China and made distinctions between economic and security factors in their respective relationships. Srinivasan said China is the biggest trade and economic partner of Vietnam and high on relations with another trade partners India.
Regional cooperation between India and China is inevitable as is the case of regional competition, he said. “If it is peaceful and culture, economics-driven it is healthy,” the former Foreign Secretary said. He said security cooperation in ASEAN, of which Vietnam is a part, is guided by two road strategy factors -the American military superiority in the Asia-Pacific region, and the question of balancing China’s growing ascendancy in the region.
“These two factors are considered to be given and sought to be accommodated in a regional strategic framework,” Srinivasan said. Observing that ASEAN countries are nearly unanimous in welcoming Indian strategic presence in the group, he said there were some countries like Malayasia and Indonesia that might still have some reservations.
“On the other hand Vietnam has been India’s long standing friend in ASEAN. Vietnam supported every move by India, liked every move of India to upgrade its relationship with ASEAN,” he said. On India-Vietnam cultural ties, he referred to cultural events, people to people interactions and human capacity building.
Srinivasan also referred to the joint restoration project of the UNESCO heritage site in Vietnam aimed at underlining the ancient Hindu civilisation linkage between the two countries. He said India had set up a cultural centre in Hanoi last year and provided training to armed forces and civilians.