The decision between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung, who held wide-ranging talks here, to boost defence and security ties is likely to irk China.

"Our defence cooperation with Vietnam is among our most important ones. India remains committed to the modernisation of Vietnam's defence and security forces," Modi said following his talks with Tan.

This will include expansion of training programme, which is already very substantial, joint exercises and cooperation in defence equipment.

"We will quickly operationalise the 100 million dollars LoC that will enable Vietnam acquire new naval vessels from India. We have also agreed to enhance our security cooperation, including in counter-terrorism," Modi said.

According to official sources, Vietnam has agreed to buy four patrol vessels for its Navy under the LoC Scheme but is yet to formally identify the shipyard it wants them from.

Vietnam wants the vessel for surveillance off its coast and around its military bases in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea where it is building a credible naval deterrent to China with Kilo-class submarines from Russia.

Sources also said that talks are on to train Vietnam Air Force pilots in flying Sukhoi fighters as well. India is already training the Vietnam Navy personnel in operating the Russian-origin Kilo-class submarine among other areas.

India and Vietnam have a long-standing defence relationship but it has been restricted to military exchanges, training, spares and maintenance of military hardware.

A joint statement released after the meeting said the Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress made in defence cooperation including exchange of visits, annual security dialogue, service to service cooperation, ship visits, training, capacity building and cooperation at the regional fora including on Humanitarian Mine Action under ADMM-Plus.

"They expressed hope that the ongoing robust defence and security cooperation between India and Vietnam will continue to be strengthened through regular exchanges at high level," it said.

The leaders also called for "restraint" and "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea, where China is embroiled in a bitter dispute with Vietnam and other nations.

"They agreed that freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea/South China Sea should not be impeded," the statement said.

"The (leaders called on the) parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid threat or use of force and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law."

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