India needs to turn to Vietnam.
When it comes to arms exports, India, despite being the world’s largest arms importer, remains a country which has also developed some highly sophisticated defense products which have solicited tremendous demand from nations like UAE and Vietnam and several other South Eastern Tigers.
UAE has expressed a great deal of interest in procuring the Indian AKASH missiles, while several ASEAN nations, and especially Vietnam have lately been engaged in high-level discussions with Government of India for procuring BRAHMOS and AKASH missile defense systems to deploy them against the Chinese might in the South China Sea.
It’s important to them because China has been hegemonically usurping the maritime territory of the other South East Asian peers by pushing its warships, destroyers and jets farther and farther, taking over islands claimed by others, and also building artificial ones in the seas claimed by others.
Vietnam is one of the nations which have suffered the most because of these aggressive acts of China, and needs better defenses to defend what it claims to be its own land and sea. The problem is , firstly, not many nations have such advanced missile systems to defend against China, and second, not every nation with such sophisticated weaponry would be okay about going against China and selling weapons to its adversaries in today’s times.
Ergo, Vietnam and other ASEAN nations are ready buyers. However, despite so much of interest and demand for BRAHMOS and AKASH missiles, India has to this very day remained silent on those deals, taking no step forward.
Because India has always maintained its position to not engage in export of any weaponry which could escalate tensions in any region. Thus, when it comes to arms exports, India has always restricted itself to export of armaments which are very low value products and don’t provide any significant strength or deterrence in geopolitical sense to the buying nations. Missiles do.
When you read headlines like “India successfully inducts missiles with 5000 KM range which can hit Shanghai” you take notice, and you feel proud. And, if you are China or Pakistan, you straighten your back, sit up, flex your eyes and read that headline again.
Basically, you begin to pay attention.
That’s the impact a credible missile system can have on your enemy. It raises the costs of irritating someone who was until now weaker than you. It makes the enemy reassess your capabilities against theirs.
So far India has not been selling its high-grade missile systems to the adversaries of China, while China continues to be one of the biggest arms exporters to Pakistan, India’s pesky and belligerent neighbour. Also, many of these very weapons then end up being used to safeguard the terror bastions led by the likes of Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed in areas like Balakot and Chitkoli.
So how about India giving China a taste of its own medicine? How about India arming and strengthening Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, with top-notch missile systems that they don’t have today, greatly need and want, and India has readily available? Now that would surely attract China’s attention and interest, unnerve it a little and bother it a bit more, maybe enough for President Xi Jinping to dial PM Modi and ask what what would India take to stop partaking in such deals with China’s adversaries!
That is a solid move India can pursue to make China either consider allowing the UN ban on Masood Azhar, or to make China covertly push Pakistani Army and its proxy Government to crackdown on the activities of Masood Azhar and other monsters it is harbouring.
Its time India played the geopolitical game the way other players are playing it. Its time to up the ante. Its time to raise the cost for China, if it chooses to not heed to the Indian call to unleash a cumulative effort in defeating terror in all its forms. The cost of choosing condemnation over cooperation. Period.