Warm reception to Indian naval ships in China

Four Indian naval warships, on a first in six years goodwill tour to China, docked at the Shanghai port to a warm reception by the Chinese navy.

Beijing: Four Indian naval warships, on a first in six years goodwill tour to China, docked at the Shanghai port on Wednesday to a warm reception by the Chinese navy, as the two forces work to overcome mistrust and warm up for maritime cooperation.

Rana -- a Rajput class guided missile destroyer, Shivalik -- a stealth frigate; Karmuk -- a Kora class Corvettes and INS Shakti -- a fleet tanker, comprising of over 1000 sailors and officers arrived at the picturesque Bund in Shanghai to the accomplishments of Chinese naval bands.

Chinese naval officials headed by Rear Admiral, Shen Hao, Commander of the Shanghai Maritime garrison welcomed the ships and the crew.

Marking the significance of the occasion, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Chief of Indian Navy`s Eastern Command along with Indian Ambassador, S Jaishankar were present to greet the Chinese naval officials.

Much to the delight of the Indian officials, a large contingent of the Chinese media turned up to cover the event and the press interaction that followed.

A press brief issued by the Indian embassy about the interaction with Chinese media today said the Indian officials highlighted India`s "Look East Policy" stating that it underscores the importance India attaches to enhancing relations with East and South East Asian countries.

"It is with the hope of strengthening military ties with the countries of the strategically important region that the four ships under the command of Read Admiral Ajit Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, were presently deployed in the South and East China Sea," the note said.

The ships which started their deployment in early May will continue till June 12 with port calls at Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea, Japan and China.

The Chinese journalists "bombarded" Vice Admiral Chopra
and Jaishankar with questions about India`s stand on the ongoing row between Philippines and China over the disputed islands in South China Sea, the emerging India-Japan defence cooperation, India`s acquisition of new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya and China`s plans to commission it is own aircraft carrier shortly.
Navy can be gauged from the fact that Flag Officer Commanding in Chief of the Easter Naval Command, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra is also present in Shanghai during the port call of Eastern fleet ships," said the brief.

"The importance of the maritime global concern about security and the economic growth of both China and India automatically translates to a convergence of interests that underlines the need for us to strengthen cooperation in the maritime domain," it said.

"The sustainable contribution of the PLA Navy to combating the scourge of piracy in the Gulf Of Aden is something that we are well aware of and highly appreciate. We therefore eagerly look forward to exercising with the very capable PLA Navy on our exit from Shanghai port," it said.

Vice Admiral Chopra later held talks with his counterpart of Chinese Navy, Su Zhiqian. Rear Admiral Gu Xiangping, Deputy Commander of the East Sea fleet, attended the reception on board the ships in the evening.

The ships have been lined up for a series of engagements of public diplomacy, including visits by school children, local public and media.

The Indian naval band will perform to entertain the Chinese crowds and receptions were due to be held with top civic and military officials.

The Indian ships` visit is being seen as a significant event, as the two navies regarded as emerging powers of blue waters warmed up for maritime cooperation despite concerns over each others` rapid rise.

China is watching warily the US navy`s big push into the Asia-pacific just when Beijing is tied down with maritime disputes over the islands in the South China Sea with a number of its neighbours including Philippines and Vietnam.

China, which claims a large part of South China Sea as its own objected to India`s oil exploration in the blocks claimed by Vietnam and expressed satisfaction when ONGC abandoned the wells citing poor yield.

India insists on freedom of navigation in South China Sea as it is a vital maritime route and Beijing has clarified several times that it never disrupted navigation.
An Indian naval ship reported to have received a message last year when it was passing through South China Sea, stating that it is traveling in Chinese waters.
But, Beijing termed it as a groundless report.

While trying to scale up relations with India, China is also watching the impact of Washington`s efforts to take ties with New Delhi to a new strategic level.
The visit to China assumed "immense importance" as this year is declared as Year of India China Friendship and Cooperation.