1373993526321448549In a further boost to its growing defence ties with Vietnam, India has agreed to train the southeast nation’s Sukhoi-30 fighter pilots.

The agreement was reached during bilateral discussions between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Vietnamese counterpart, General Ngo Xuan Lich, here on Monday.

India and Vietnam have been steadily stepping up their cooperation, especially in the defence sector, against the backdrop of the growing assertiveness of China in the region.

Bilateral ties recently received a further fillip when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vietnam in September, on his way to the G-20 Summit in Guangzhou.

Both India and Vietnam operate Russian Su-30 jets and the two countries’ models differ slightly in their configuration.

India already trains Vietnamese sailors in operating Kilo class submarines, which Hanoi had begun inducting since January 2014. India operates over 200 Su-30MKI fighters and nine Kilo-class diesel electric submarines.

“Details are being worked out. Their pilots will be trained here. The two Air Forces will now sit and work out the numbers and scope. It should start fairly quickly,” a defence source said.

The cost of training is being worked out. However, it will not be paid through the $500 million Line of Credit (LoC) extended by Delhi to Hanoi for defence procurements.

“The terms and conditions of the LoC have been agreed upon. Vietnam has sought some concessions, to which we agreed. Some of it will be for modernisation of the existing equipment and the rest for new platforms,” sources said. An agreement would soon be signed by Exim Bank, after which the projects would be identified.

A programme for cooperation between the Air Forces was also signed. A senior official said that it covered a cross-section of activities, including training of pilots and exchange of experts. “Vietnam is interested in our experiences in repair and maintenance,” the official said.

A memorandum of understanding was signed on peacekeeping as well as exchange of delegations. Mr. Parrikar offered “India’s partnership as a reliable player in terms of transfer of technology and building a local defence industry”. The two Ministers were learnt to have discussed the regional situation and taken note of their converging interests.

Officials said Gen. Lich was positive on the progress made following Mr. Parrikar’s visit to Hanoi in June. Underscoring the importance of the visit, the Minister is being accompanied by a 30-member delegation, the largest so far to have accompanied him on a foreign visit. It includes the chiefs of the Air Force and the Navy and the Deputy Chief of General Staff.

Source: TH