Finally, Vietnam has the Brahmos

Image result for pics of indian- vietnam military links

The Vietnamese Government today confirmed that it is in possession of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile armed with conventional warheads that the Indian government has taken an age to transfer to Hanoi. Vietnam is the one country China fears most — because invading Chinese PLA units got badly mauled in northern Vietnam in 1979. It is a hiding Beijing won’t easily forget, more so because it was given, not by the regular Vietnamese Army, but by the force of irregulars then guarding the border!

For the last 15-odd years, Delhi has pussyfooted around giving the Brahmos to Vietnam, limiting security cooperation to Kilo sub crew training, maintenance of Vietnamese MiG-27s/29s, and recently even offer of  the Akash SRAMs, etc., when what the Vietnamese really wanted was the Brahmos. They apparently appreciated better than Delhi/PMO/MEA  the strategic value of this missile in their armoury.

This for me is a particularly satisfying development because I first began advocating arming Vietnam with the Brahmos since before joining the first National Security Advisory Board in 1998 and then when I was there. When I originally officially made this pitch it ran smack into the then Foreign Secretary K. Raghunath’s rather dismissive response in his meeting with NSAB that this was “not practicable” thing to do — a phrase that has ever since remained etched in my mind and reflects the MEA’s strategic myopia!! In other words, China could arm Pakistan with nuclear missiles but for India to return the favour by equipping states on the Chinese periphery was not right. When Delhi fears even to do a strategic tit-for-tat, small wonder India has counted for so little for so long. The Brahmos-to-Vietnam move instantly changes the Asian geostrategical situation that one only hopes the Indian government understands. But it will need other follow-on measures spelled out below to derive the fullest advantage.

Hopefully, the Vietnamese will use the Indian Brahmos as shore battery to protect their offshore oil rigs and other infrastructural energy assets in the South China Sea, prevent the relentless Chinese bullying in the waters off its coastline, and to contain the Chinese Navy’s powerful South Sea Fleet out of the Sanya base on Hainan Island. This last is a particularly hard-hitting aim because once the maritime threat from that PLAN Fleet is denatured, there’s not much left for China to wag in anger in Hanoi’s face. Consider this: A broadside of two Brahmos can sink the Laoning-class aircraft carrier with China, and a single missile striking smaller vessels — missile destroyers and frigates and the like, will sink them.

One really hopes that after holding one’s ground in Doklam and onpassing the Brahmos missile to Hanoi, the Modi government will now be motivated to shove China even more onto the strategic back foot by transferring on a priority basis this same cruise missile to the Philippines and Indonesia, which last long ago expressed a serious interest in having the Brahmos in its naval arsenal. Duterte is a prickly character — who routinely cocks a snook at Trump and the US — and has had to make peace with Beijing because he does not have the wherewithal to fend off the Chinese. Manila would like to have more options and latitude in tackling Beijing. And Duterte will jump at the chance to pump up his own image at home and abroad by getting the Brahmos to hold off China.

This will mandate a much larger and continuing demand for the Brahmos missiles. The Brahmos Aerospace  (BA) DPSU simply doesn’t have the capacity to ramp up its production by a factor. Time the government immediately ordered the BA to transfer technology to the private sector for opening of two or more additional Brahmos production lines.  Larsen & Toubro is presently the only private sector firm with the capability to begin producing Brahmos on a war footing. No time should be wasted in moving the supersonic cruise missile technology to the private sector companies, and doing India’s strategic interests some real good for a change.


About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in arms exports, Asian geopolitics, Bhutan, China, China military, Culture, Decision-making, Defence Industry, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, MEA/foreign policy, Military/military advice, Missiles, society, South Asia, South East Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Finally, Vietnam has the Brahmos

  1. I have been reading some of your books lately. In a half-hearted, hesitant way, it seems GOI is taking some steps you have been outlining.

    Would love for India to take broader initiative if China chooses to open up the Doklam matter. esp on the Naval side.

    • again sir, its half-hearted … The problem which i partially agree with is not in the polity today, but with the BABUS in the South-Block & guess what , its the PEOPLE from the democracies like India are running the AGENDA RIGHT NOW,atleast have a proud moment,that we are in a new India & as Mr. Karnad himself says ,” This will bring more pressure on the GOI to DO MORE & give Brahmos missiles to every country on the Chinese periphery”.

  2. Chaitanya says:

    Finally good to see India showing some muscle to the Chinese connivance.People may disagree with Dr.Karnad on some issues; even I do too but he his heart and head are most of the time in right place.

  3. A small follow-on question. How many Bhramos launchers and missiles will Vietnam need to effectively fend off the PLAN fleet?

  4. Mr Karnad,
    Does Brahmos with Indonesia and Philippines as you suggest really takes into account the possibility of Indonesia turning more and more Islamist with time and the return to US good books that is on the cards for Philippines eventually.

    One is also reminded of Indonesia’s attempt to wrestle A&N in past..

    Would Thailand, Cambodia and Laos make more likely reliable partners with deeper cultural similarities being the basis for longer time ties and no areas of mutual suspicion/conflict?

    • Laos & Cambodia are in China’s pocket, reason why ASEAN consensus on condemnation of China not reached on SC Sea. Indonesia is unlikely to let extremist Islam take root, among other reasons, because the tourist dollars (esp Australian) will dry up. Philippines as always is a good Brahmos candidate — as p[art exchange for Subic Bay and Clark’s AFB? If MEA had the strategic imagination, this exchange is what we should have long ago done.

      • Respected SIr, Meanwhile there was an Urban Warfare Scenario in south-East Asia & in Phillipines controlled Territory, my question is as to how much The Polit-Bureau can cope up with Wahaabism on the rise ,even in Java,Sumatra,Cambodia,etc. And all this happend Very Recently During the Battle of Marawi in May & June this year

  5. raja says:

    How easy is it to copy the Brahmos?

    • Not easy. The seeker is the most difficult, as also the ramjet engine.

      • raja says:

        1.why we did’nt license produce AKs in India?
        On mass production the unit cost would have greatly reduced and ensured a decent capability to our forces and with our jugad and cheap labour we could have exported it as IKJs (Indian Kalashnikov-Jugad)!

        2.After Shankul HDW sub, even producing one in every five years would have ensured better numbers. why the opportunity was lost?

        3.All wars are based on deception. But others comment on our CAG report. why?
        4.On what basis chinese claim SCS?
        5.Why Russia and Germany seems aloof in the modern geopolitical scenario?
        6.Which are the principled countries in the world today?
        7.Are thinktanks biased in their opinions?
        8.We build SSBNs not SSKs why?
        9.Its our apparent low numbers vis-a-vis the chinese that emboldens them on adventures.Kindly comment.
        10.What are the main causes for the internal disequilibrium in our country?

        “War demands Something is better than nothing but civilised mind desires nothing is better than nonsense.
        and the conflict is always there!”

  6. Shiva says:

    Some news channels now reporting that the sale has not happened following denials by India. Could you explain why India would deny such a story?

    • It is the MEA/China Study Circle at it again; they are fearful this will provoke China into doing something. The news of the Brahmos with Vietnam confirmed by Hanoi government.

  7. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    There also seem to be denials regarding Vietnam having already received the brahmos. Hope it is true. Also hope that we have sufficiently many of these for own requirements. GoI should go one step ahead and test a couple of Agni 5’s in quick succession for deterrent effect.

  8. Satyaki says:

    also, why would Vietnam want the Brahmos when Russia has already supplied it K300-P bastion complexes equipped with the Yakhont (which is very similar and has essentially the same maneuvering capabilities)?

  9. Reblogged this on securityanalystblog and commented:
    A satisfying moment for me & for every India towards @narendramodi & the Govt. Of India to stand upto the Asian Hegemonistic bully i.e. Beijing.

  10. Sir, i wonder if beijing knows what we are giving to Hanoi ? Afterall, we already have a Civil-Nuclear Agreement from Vajpayee’s Tenure ?? And Most Importantly, the so called THINK-TANKS like carneige, CFR & BRROKINGS & (IRONICALLY) an ex-NSA of India is also doing seminars & conferences on Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai with luteyns media elite supporting OBOR initiaitve, sitting alongside with the Chinese Ambassador in Mumbai, what do you think of that ????

  11. Vivek says:

    Vietnam govt never confirmed this.It was misinterpreted by some Vietnamese media.

  12. manofsan says:

    Congrats to the Modi government for taking this step, if the story is true. What kind of retaliatory response could we expect from China due to this move?

  13. Congratulations sir, i am sure this news must be very gratifying to you. The country needs more men like you, who dare to think out of the box, guided only by the principles of realpolitik and India’s interests.

    We have a long way to go before we can catch up with the US and China in having a very powerful and potent strategic culture. How do you think we can do that?

  14. Aban says:

    Is Larsen&Toubro the only company that can manufacture defence equipments , arms and ammunitions? What about other companies?

    • Godrej Aerospace and Mahindra to lesser extent. The rest (Ambani, Adani) — profit aspirational! No physical capacity.

      • Aban says:

        We have too many debt-ridden, family run ‘robber baron’ capitalist , who can only operate a few infra projects and that too inefficiently and have acquired wealth at the cost of the society . Govt policies have never encouraged High-tech manufacturing like Japan,Korea, Taiwan and now China.

      • Rupam Das says:

        even though the following will be “छोटा मुँह बड़ी बात” but as a engineering student and aspiring to set up my own company in defence sector. Is there even 0.01% chance to achieve it successfully (in India) in the next 5-10 yrs. even if it is started with supplying of single parts or maintenance services (if possible) or products such as military gear for soldiers, guns, ammunition, sniper rifles etc. If so how do i do it. Any guidance will be godsend. Hope my aspirations are not too high.

    • Wonder how is Bharat forge shaping up?

      • Should have included Bharat Forge in the list (with Godrej and Mahindra)

      • @Rupam Das — No aspiration’s too high. Any highly motivated tech entrepreneur has better chances than that. So do be part of the SMSE ‘Mittelstand’ that I have long advocated which’s now gradually emerging. For an “how to” primer, please refer to the ‘India First’ tech forum on Google platform run by Smita Purshottam — our ambassador to Switzerland. This forum has lots of the techy-entreprenuerial types on it. Hope things work out for you.

  15. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Sometime back Shree Shree 108 Modi ji had dropped the ‘state of art’ condition for FDI beyond the 49%. After 49% it is still with govt. approval. Needless to say this policy would not have been required if the F-16 was not to be done &/or ultimately the F-35.
    At that time the IDSA propaganda was as follows:
    “There’s no material change in the policy, it’s just the semantics— they have replaced ‘state of-the-art-technology’ with ‘modern technology,’ said Laxman Behera, research fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).”

    Even though the reality is:
    “Under the earlier policy, an OEM or manufacturer looking to set up a wholly owned subsidiary required approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security. This entailed getting a clearance from ministry of defence, ministry of external affairs, ministry of home affairs and the ministry of defence and proving that the technology/product sought to be manufactured was modern and state of the art.

    “By removing the burden to prove the product/ technology as modern and state of the art, a significant regulatory hurdle has been removed,” [Kabir Bogra, associate partner at consulting firm Khaitan & Co.] Bogra said.”

    Foreigners obviously have the tech and the funds and the manpower. In such a case why would they need an Ambani or Adani except to be used and thrown away after use. These people also know this so the only funds they are willing to put in are the following:
    “A report submitted by an Inter Ministerial Group (IMG), which was formed in March, has said that high cost of domestic capital and restrictions on ECBs have hurt the Indian shipbuilding industry.
    Therefore, it has suggested that the shipyards be allowed to access ECB by the RBI, without prior government approval, for raising fresh working capital as well as refinancing of the outstanding working capital loans.”

    This high cost of capital is realized as a fact only for these agency businesses and not for the domestic businesses, defence or otherwise. The shareholder & bondholders agreements would legally take away whatever little so called ‘control’ the future governments of India would have exercised through these local agents.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Here I fail to understand how team Modi works?

      Airlines is where Indian money is to be dunked.

      But the defence private sector employee, who may be an Indian too cannot even speak and will be bound by official secrets act and what not, with its 600 word single line provisions:

      Here IB had no concerns. They are ones who will ensure the application of official secrets act.

      Tota maina ki kahani ab zabani ho gayi.

  16. If confirmed, hats off to our Govt…we need to fight the dragon’s fire with fire.

  17. Pingback: India Denies Selling BrahMos Missiles To Vietnam | 21st Century Asian Arms Race

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