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September 26, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm


In International Relations, there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy, but permanent interests

In international relations, strategic turnarounds are not uncommon, and are in fact embedded in the very tapestry (arrangement) of anarchical (radical) structural realities.

Yet, even by those standards, the immediacy and scale of the volte-face (U-turn) in relations between the United States and Vietnam since the Cold War has been remarkable.

Insights into the US-Vietnam War

The Vietnam War (also known by other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975.

It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam.

The north was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist states, while the south was supported by the United States and other anti-communist allies.

US displaying its military might

The U.S. Air Force destroyed more than 20% of the jungles of South Vietnam and 20–50% of the mangrove forests by spraying over 20 million gallons of toxic herbicides (defoliants) including Agent Orange. The war is one of the most commonly used examples of ecocide.

Final US Withdrawal

January 27, 1973 – U.S. troops planned to be withdrawn from South Vietnam in 60 days due to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

North Vietnam and Nixon also agree to withdraw troops from Cambodia and Laos. March 29, 1973 – The last American combat troops are withdrawn from Vietnam.

A Timeline of US-Vietnam Relations

Why in the News?

US President visited Vietnam marking a new phase in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The standout from this meeting was the elevation of U.S.-Vietnam relations to a U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

A complex foreign policy legacy

Ever since the US-Vietnam War, Vietnam always exercised strategic restraint while dealing with US.

The geopolitics involving China’s growing belligerence in the Pacific theatre brought US and Vietnam together.

After an exile with USSR, Vietnam signed Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Soviet Union in 1978.

The Present

Vietnam has entered into a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ with only four nations: China, Russia, India and South Korea. The next in line is US.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords signed in 1973 to end the Vietnam War.

Mr. Biden’s Indo-Pacific policy now counts Vietnam as among the U.S.’s ‘leading regional partners’ in the region.

Vietnam is the 10th largest goods trading partner of the U.S. In 2020, the total value of trade in goods and services between the U.S. and Vietnam amounted to approximately $92.2 billion and exceeded $138 billion in 2022.

In May 2022, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) was launched by the U.S., with Vietnam as a founding member along with 13 other countries to revive Washington’s economic dynamism in the Asia-Pacific.

Bolstering ties

The U.S.-Vietnam relationship is now rapidly expanding with an emphasis on enhancing political trust, strengthening science, technology, health and digital innovation cooperation, training of high-quality workforce, addressing climate change, and establishing a strong defence relationship in the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness. Addressing legacy issues underlines these cooperative efforts.

An assertive China

The war in Europe has thrown new challenges for Vietnam as its weapons import from Russia — its largest defence supplier — has been hit by West-led sanctions.

These limitations in the face of Vietnam’s resolve to modernise its military, coupled with an ever-growing assertiveness from China, is also gradually nudging Vietnam in a new direction.

China’s dramatic steps in 2014 to place oil rigs in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone and subsequent assertive posturing have tested its stated policy to stay clear of great power politics in the region.

Undoubtedly, Washington senses an opportunity here and bolstering the defence and security relationship with Vietnam is a key piece of America’s grand strategy in the Indo-Pacific.


India’s initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) partnership with the U.S. along with the Quad’s Principles of critical and emerging technology could provide an overarching framework in the Indo-Pacific for a standardisation of technology in its design, development and use.

A supply chain arch which extends from Vietnam to Europe via West Asia and anchored by India with the newly launched India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor during the recent G-20 meet in India could symbolise ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ in an apt way.

Mains Questions

  1. The contemporary bonhomie between US and Vietnam is a classic example of strategic turnarounds based on perceived national interests. Comment (150 Words) 10 Marks


September 26, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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