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Warship bar tests Beijing bonhomie

Beijing, Nov. 16 (PTI): The prevailing Hindi-Chini bhai bhai spirit ran into rough weather when a top Indian naval offic- er’s request to visit the combat information centre of a Chinese warship was politely turned down.

Vice-Admiral .P. Bansal, during a visit to Chinese frigate Jia Xing, had asked the commander of the Shanghai naval base, Rear Admiral Xu Jiwei, if he could visit the nerve centre where battle plans are worked out.

Xu, through an interpreter, informed Bansal that he was not authorised to open the centre to the Indian Navy, which staged the first joint naval exercise with China on Friday.

Flag officer commanding of the Eastern Fleet, Rear Admiral R.P. Suthan, said it would have been “nice” if the Chinese had acceded to the request.

Asked whether the Indian Navy would be willing to open the combat information centre of its warships, Suthan said: “Well, we really don’t mind opening up, but it is all based on reciprocity. It would have been nice if they had shown us the CIC. But we have no hassles.”

However, Indian Navy officers were shown the bridge, engine room and the machinery control room of the Chinese warship and told about its various functions.

The warship had taken part in Friday’s search-and-rescue exercise codenamed Dolphin 0311, which took place off the coast of Shanghai in East China Sea.

This was the fourth visit by Indian warships to Shanghai. The Indian Navy had sent three of its frontline battle vessels — INS Ranjit, a guided-missile destroyer, INS Kulish, a guided-missile corvette, and the navy’s largest replenishment vessel, INS Jyoti — the biggest-ever display of Indian naval might in China.

The ships arrived in Shanghai after paying friendly port calls in Brunei, the Philippines and South Korea.

During a news conference on board INS Ranjit, Bansal rubbished claims that the exercise was politically significant and militarily insignificant.

“Military affairs have mu- lti-level functions,” he said. Apart from conveying good wishes to various countries, Bansal said, the navy can play an important role during peaceful periods. “We have a common mission in peacetime, and that is to conduct sea patrol to ensure the security at sea and prevent commercial sailing from pirates.”

The vice-admiral said the naval exercise represents another stride forward. “Its historic significance lies in that the two countries are beginning to act upon and get to know each other. We were very honoured to invite the Chinese fleet to India in 2001. They will come to India again in the future, so will we to China. This action may be regarded as a continuation of the exchanges that have lasted for several thousand years,” he said.

Bansal said the Chinese navy has made a very good impression on him.

“Their ships are functionally excellent, properly maintained and are of high efficiency. The officers and soldiers are very friendly and straightforward. They exchanged views and experience with us from a purely professional perspective,” he said.

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