Indian media: Vietnam, India 'dare the dragon'

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, shake hands after meeting in Delhi in October 2014 Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (left) and India's Narendra Modi announced plans for oil and military cooperation

Indian newspapers see Delhi and Vietnam as braving potential Chinese irritation by announcing a raft of military and oil cooperation plans.

At a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, India signed an agreement boosting its role in Vietnamese oil exploration in the South China Sea, where China and Vietnam have major territorial disputes.

India will also help Vietnam modernise its defence forces, including a $100m (£60m) credit line to buy Indian patrol vessels.

"India ignores China's frown, offers defence boost to Vietnam," a headline in the Times of India reads.

The paper adds that India also signalled it could sell Vietnam the Brahmos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile.

Vietnam's desire for the weapon to counter Chinese naval dominance is long thought to have been held up by co-developer Russia, but Moscow has now dropped its objections, according to the daily.

Comparing the new-found friendship to "scaling the Great Wall of China", the Hindustan Times says Indian sources acknowledge Beijing "will be unhappy", but adds that the closer military ties may be a response to events such as the recent docking of a Chinese nuclear submarine in Sri Lanka.

"India's sense is that it will need a Vietnam to give a similar naval poke to China as and when needed," the paper says.

In what the Deccan Chronicle describes as a move to "dare the Chinese dragon", India will help Vietnam explore two more oil projects in the contentious South China Sea, in addition to the existing three.

According to the Asian Age, the "swipe" at Beijing provoked a prompt Chinese warning against oil exploration activity that undermines its "sovereignty and interests".

But the Telegraph takes a different view, arguing that Mr Modi has in fact "quietly pulled India back from a brewing diplomatic confrontation".

As well as casting doubt on a Brahmos sale, the paper points out that the two new oil projects are in Vietnamese waters not claimed by China, and that India will actually cut down its role in a project in disputed waters.

Ruling Maharashtra

Meanwhile, papers report that the BJP has nominated Devendra Fadnavis for the post of chief minister in the western state of Maharashtra, after the party won the most seats in recent elections.

The Firstpost website says Mr Fadnavis will be sworn in on Friday.

An editorial in the Times of India comments that "not only does Fadnavis have a spotless profile in public life", but he "also has an excellent record as a legislator".

It wonders, however, whether he will have "the stature to manage a minority or coalition government, as well as deal with the faction-ridden Maharashtra BJP".

Road safety

The government says it wants to push through a new Road Transport and Safety Bill that aims to cut road accidents by 50% over the next two years, the Deccan Herald reports.

The paper says the bill envisages heavier fines for traffic violations and even jail terms for serious offences.

With 500,000 road accidents and 150,000 deaths annually, India has the highest rate in the world, says the daily.

And finally, Bangalore City railway station has become the first one in the country to provide wi-fi to passengers.

The Indian Express says the service will be free of charge for the first 30 minutes, and that plans are in place for wi-fi to be available at all major stations in the country.

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