India has increased efforts to sell an advanced cruise missile system to Vietnam and 15 more markets amid concerns of China’s military build-up, according Reuters.
India’s shift from being the world’s biggest arms importer to seller of the supersonic BrahMos missile is seen as a move to bolster the defenses of its partners as well as boost revenues.
The Reuters report cited an Indian government note which stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, the country’s missile producer, to accelerate sales to five countries that included Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil.
The note, which sources said was issued early this year, also has a second list that included 11 other countries led by the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.
The BrahMos missile, said to be world’s fastest cruise missile with a top speed of three times the speed of sound, has been requested by Vietnam since 2011, which China considers as destabilizing.
Indonesia and the Philippines also asked for the BrahMos, which has a range of 290 kilometers and can be launched from sea, land and submarine. The air-launch version of the missile is currently being tested.
Although India has no territorial dispute in the South China Sea, unlike Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, its land border claim with China is still unsettled and it is concerned with China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean.
India has also complained about the military assistance given by China to its rival, Pakistan, and for allowing Chinese submarines to dock in Sri Lanka.
“Policymakers in Delhi were long constrained by the belief that advanced defense cooperation with Washington or Hanoi could provoke aggressive and undesirable responses from Beijing,” Jeff M. Smith, Director of Asian Security Programs at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, said.
“Prime Minister Modi and his team of advisers have essentially turned that thinking on its head, concluding that stronger defense relationships with the U.S., Japan, and Vietnam actually put India on stronger footing in its dealings with China,” Smith added.
After Indian Prime Minister Modi’s tak with U.S. President Barack Obama, India is set to join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The country’s inclusion in the MTCR will give it more credibility to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. India’s membership in the two groups would give it greater access to research and technology.
BrahMos Aerospace, owned by both the Indian and Russian governments, said that it is still discussing with several countries on the missile exports.
The country is continuing to build military ties with Vietnam, and gave it a $100-million credit line.
In a statement on Monday, June 6, the Indian defense ministry said that Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Vietnamese counterpart General Ngo Xuan have agreed to exchange information on commercial shipping as well as expand hydrographic cooperation.
India was also expecting to clinch the negotiation to supply BrahMos to Vietnam by the end of the year while planning to offer the country a battleship armed with BrahMos missiles.