India – Vietnam Defence Ties Strengthens on their first ever Coast Guard Exercise

A Vietnam Coast Guard ship, on its maiden visit to Chennai, undertook joint exercises with the Indian Coast Guard off the city coast today aimed at strengthening the working level relationship between them.

According to an official press release, Coast Guard ships Shaurya, Arnvesh and interceptor boat C-431 along with a Dornier aircraft and Chetak helicopter participated in the joint exercise – ‘SahyogHOP TAC-2018’.

The exercise was aimed at acquainting the coast guards of the two countries with each other’s capabilities and strengthening the working level relationship to rescue lives at sea. The highlight of the exercise was a scenario of hijacking an oil ship and subsequent rescue of its crew in the coordinated joint operation of both the countries.

The exercise was conducted under the supervision of Inspector General Paramesh Sivamani Commander Coast Guard Eastern region and was witnessed by Vietnam Coast Guard Commandant Major General Nguyen Van Son.

While this is just one of a series of scheduled defence engagements by the two sides expected this year, it nonetheless put the spotlight on the growing security ties between the two Asian powers in general and between their two coast guards.

Vietnam and India have looked to advance their existing defence relationship as part of their wider ties, which were elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership back in 2016. Defence ties have grown in recent years to include not just the traditional components like visits and exercises but also the training of personnel, capacity-building funding and equipment, and coast guard collaboration.

This week, this aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with a series of interactions by the coast guards on both sides. A key event in this respect was high-level talks between the Vietnam Coast Guard and the Indian Coast Guard on October 1, which provided an opportunity for both sides to take stock of ties, share experiences in specific areas, and discuss potential ways to advance ties still further.

But another notable development was the visit of a Vietnam Coast Guard ship to India. The ship, CBS 8001 from Coast Guard Region 3, docked at Chennai port on October 2 for its scheduled four-day visit. Though the visit is only one of many interactions in the bilateral relationship on the defence side, it is nonetheless significant as well in that it marks the first time a Vietnam Coast Guard vessel has visited India. In that sense, it is testament to the ongoing strengthening of the relationship between the two coast guards, as well as the maritime forces of both countries more generally.

The visit itself involved a range of interactions. According to Vietnam’s defence ministry, the agenda for the visit included several engagements, with the Vietnamese coast guard delegation set to talks with the Command of the Indian Coast Guard Eastern Region and visiting the Chennai search and rescue centre to share experience in law enforcement at sea and preventing piracy. There were also other interactions as well, including a welcome ceremony, a visit to the Vietnamese vessel by officers of the Indian Coast Guard Eastern Region and officials and students of Chennai city, courtesy calls by the Vietnam, and cultural activities such as sports exchanges and visits to some key cultural sites in the city.

But the headline-making item during the visit was unsurprisingly the joint exercise that both India and Vietnam held. On October 4, both coast guards carried out a joint exercise off the Chennai coast. Per Vietnamese accounts, the exercise featured three coast guard ships, one Dornier aircraft, one Chetak helicopter, and a research vessel Sagar Manjusa from the Indian National Institute of Ocean Technology. The exercise focused on areas such as environmental protection, maritime safety, search and rescue, and tackling law enforcement issues.

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