New Delhi: India and Vietnam late on Monday signed a five-year joint vision statement on defence cooperation to build closer strategic ties in the backdrop of an increasingly assertive China flexing its muscles in the South China Sea.

The document, for the period 2015-2020, was signed by India’s defence minister Manohar Parrikar and the Vietnamese minister for national defence General Phùng Quang Thanh after talks in New Delhi, according to a statement posted by India’s ministry of defence on social networking wesbite Facebook.

“An MoU (memorandum of understanding) on cooperation between the coast guards of the two countries was also signed in the presence of the two defence ministers," the statement said without giving any details.

At the delegation level talks, the two sides discussed issues concerning defence cooperation, including cooperation in the area of maritime security.

“Both sides reiterated their commitment to further enhancing the ongoing defence engagements between the two sides for mutual benefit," the statement added.

The signing of the document came on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Thanh of India’s full commitment to the strategic partnership between the two countries during a meeting in New Delhi between the two.

Thanh, who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday, is on a three-day visit to India that comes amid growing concerns over China’s land reclamation project in the South China Sea, aimed at bolstering its territorial claims in the disputed area. The Chinese were looking at turning reefs into islands that can host airstrips and other military facilities, according to a Reuters news report.

According to news reports, the Vietnamese are keen on India training their submarirne personnel. India was also looking at selling the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile to Vietnam. But according to Indian government officials, the deal has not been finalised so far.

India and Vietnam, traditionally friendly countries, have forged an ever closer economic strategic relationship in the last decade after increasing Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as India’s own ‘Act East’ policy.

Last year, there were at least three high-level interactions between India and Vietnam in three months—foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Hanoi in August ahead of a visit by President Pranab Mukherjee in September. During Mukherjee’s visit, India extended Vietnam a $100 million line of credit for defence procurement. In October, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited India.

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