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After 6 years, Indian navy calls on China's ports

June 12, 2012 15:16 IST
After a gap of six years, an armada of Indian warships would dock at the Chinese port city of Shanghai on Wednesday to begin a five-day goodwill tour in a show of camaraderie in spite of misgivings about each other's rise.

The frontline warships include Rana, a Rajput class guided missile destroyer, Shivalik, a stealth frigate, Karmuk, a Kora class Corvettes and INS Shakti, a fleet tanker, comprising about 1400 sailors, and would berth at Shanghai's picturesque "Bund" to make a big splash.

The fleet is led by Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, chief of the Eastern Command which will interact with top officials of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army, who would be making calls on the warships.

This was the first visit by Indian naval ships to China after a gap of six years, and both countries have made hectic efforts to demonstrate the emerging rapprochement despite the border dispute and misgivings about each other's rise.

"The ships' visit is a high point of defence exchanges this year as it is designated by both the countries as the year of friendship and cooperation," Indian Ambassador to China S Jaishankar, who is already in Shanghai, told PTI.

Their visit is being handled to make maximum public impact, with a variety of programmes involving public participation, which include visits on board the ships by Chinese school children and naval band performances, he said.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who hails from Shanghai, had informed External Affairs Minister SM Krishna during their June 7 talks that the Chinese side looks to provide a great reception to the ships.

A similar reception was accorded to a Chinese naval ship when it visited Kochi recently.

Though goodwill visits of the warships were regarded as routine, officials on both sides see this visit with significance of its own as it comes close on the recent efforts by both sides to establish maritime partnership for the first time.

A first high-level dialogue was held in Beijing in March this year to discuss the contours of the proposed maritime cooperation.

Though there is no written agreement yet on the maritime cooperation, both China and India look to broaden the dialogue with the participation of the army and navy officials besides diplomats to finalise a framework.

Such cooperation was proposed as the two countries have vast coast lines currently taking part in the anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden to provide security for commercial vessels, officials said.

It was also expected to promote a platform for discussion between the two emerging Asian naval powers which look to expand their spheres of influences.

The four Indian warships have already visited Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Japan before setting sail to Shanghai.
KJM Varma in Beijing
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