In a clear indication of its resolve to protect the nation’s interest “wherever it lies”, a Navy warship on Tuesday docked at Vietnamese port of Hai Phong in South China Sea over which Beijing had asserted its territorial claims, besides cautioning Indian warships from venturing into the waters.
INS Shivalik, a guided missile stealth frigate, reached Hai Phong, as part of its deployment in South China Sea and North Western Pacific region. India has invested heavily in a couple of oil blocks in the region which is sovereign Vietnamese territory, but China has staked its claimed over the waters.
In 2011, another warship INS Airavat, which was sailing through South China Sea was warned by an unidentified source, over the radio, against venturing into what he called “Chinese territory”. Since then, India has called for international cooperation in enforcing and maintaining the UN laws on free navigation in the high seas in South China Sea, as a counter to the Chinese claims. However, a Navy spokesperson said the Indian warship’s visit to the Vietnamese port was “a fine demonstration of the operational reach and pursuit of India’s ‘Look East’ policy.”
Shivalik is part of the Navy’s Eastern Fleet, which is currently on deployment in the area under the command of Eastern Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Atul Kumar Jain. Three Eastern Fleet units, all frontline warships, had left Indian shores in mid-June on the Eastern seaboard long duration deployment and have since been operating in South China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean.
The warships had earlier participated in the Indo-Russian bilateral ‘INDRA 2014’ and trilateral ‘MALABAR 2014’ exercise with the US Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) in the North Western Pacific Ocean and Sea of Japan last month.
“As a part of this deployment, INS Shivalik, a guided missile stealth frigate, under the command of Captain Puruvir Das, arrived at Hai Phong on a three-day goodwill visit beginning Tuesday,” a Navy spokesperson said. “The visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing interoperability between the Navies of the two nations. During the stay in harbour, various activities are planned including official calls, reception on board ship, guided tours for Naval personnel and professional interaction between personnel of both the Navies,” he said. On departure, the ship will be a part of a drill, along with Vietnamese Naval ships, for improving interoperability in communication, search and rescue procedures and other areas.
The Navy’s Eastern Fleet had last visited Hai Phong in May 2012. The warship along with two others -- INS Ranvijay, a guided missile destroyer and INS Shakti, a fleet support ship -- would return to India in the mid-August from a two-month-long deployment.