Despite their difficulties with China, though, both Vietnam and Myanmar are taking care to see that they remain deeply engaged with Beijing. Coinciding with Truong Tan Sang’s visit to New Delhi, the Vietnamese government is sending the chief of the Vietnam Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong to China to talk to the Chinese leadership about issues related to the South China Sea. Similarly, Myanmar’s vice-president, Tin Aung Myint Oo, will also travel to China next week — ostensibly to attend the opening of a China-Asean trade event — but in reality to explain Myanmar’s decision to block the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam, following environmental protests.
Vietnam is an attractive partner for India, quite apart from the strategic component. Defence and strategic issues are likely to dominate discussions. Vietnam has allowed India the use of the Nha Trang port, which is situated close to Cam Ranh Bay, an important area, formerly used by the Americans. Vietnam only opened Cam Ranh Bay to foreign vessels earlier this year, largely to counter an assertive China. India has growing naval and maritime relations with Vietnam, with reports that India might consider exporting its smaller nuclear reactors to Vietnam as well as meet Hanoi’s demands for the Brahmos super-cruise missile. There is no confirmation that any of these are on offer at present.
Soon after the visit of the Vietnamese president, India will play host to Thein Sein — this will be his second overseas visit after taking over. India’s ties with Myanmar have deepened, with the neighbour playing a proactive role against Indian insurgents crossing over. Myanmar’s decision to shelve the Chinese-built dam project Myitsone in response to protests drew fire from Beijing.