New Delhi, Nov. 5: India and China engage militarily, not as foes but as friends for the first time next week, with the Indian Navy despatching frontline warships to Shanghai for a joint exercise.
The exercise was decided during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to China in June and defence minister George Fernandes has been pushing for more friendly engagement with Beijing.
Three Indian Navy warships will dock at Shanghai port on November 10 before a search and rescue exercise in South China Sea on November 14. The ships are the INS Ranjit, a Russian-made guided missile destroyer, the INS Kulish, a guided missile corvette, and the INS Jyoti, a tanker along with helicopters. Defence sources said the navy taskforce is on its way to China.
The Navy of Chinese People’s Liberation Army will deploy a taskforce of comparable size and also fixed-wing aircraft.
The Indian team is led by Rear Admiral R.P. Suthan, head of the eastern fleet. A defence ministry statement described the exercise as a “stepping stone in enhancing inter-operability between the two navies”.
The low-level exercise is aimed at training and observing emergency procedures adopted by either navy during escort services for merchant vessels. The Chinese navy has been engaged with security in South China Sea while the Indian Navy carries out joint patrols with the US Navy in the traffic-heavy sea lanes through Malacca Straits.
Officially, the Indian and Chinese armies are still not disengaged from a stand-off in sections of the Line of Actual Control. However, confidence-building measures that were so far involving the two armies now extend to the navies with this first exercise.