The Indian Navy had to politely refuse an unusual request from the Chinese navy chief, Wu Shengli, when he came aboard one of India’s frontline stealth warships, INS Shivalik this week and wanted to be shown the Combat Information Centre (CII) or the all-important tactical room of the frigate.
It was learnt that Indian officers declined Wu’s request–considered a major break from established protocol followed by navies around the world -- saying since the ship was in the harbour, the room was locked and was not open to outsiders.
But Wu insisted on seeing the room and his aides attempted to convince the Indian side that the Chinese admiral, member of the powerful Central Military Commission, headed by President Xi Jinping, was particularly keen to see the CIC.
At this, Wu was told that he was welcome to visit the CIC during the exercise, which was slated for the following day in the Yellow Sea.
Wu did not agree.
Soon after Wu and the rest of the PLA navy team left the Indian ship.
The incident occurred on Tuesday evening when Wu, flanked by 15 top Admirals from People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy, marched on to Shivalik, docked in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao where it had arrived took part in a naval exercise to mark People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy’s 65th year of founding.
Wu was on the ship to attend the reception thrown by the 300-odd crew of the ship.
As Captain Puruvir Das, Shivalik’s commander and the Indian ambassador Ashok K Kantha escorted Wu and his officers to tour the vessel, Wu said he wanted to see a specific room – the CIC; the CIC is considered to be the “nerve centre” of any warship, a room with its equipment that could give a senior navy officer a sharp insight into the ship’s strengths and capabilities.
The Indian side were taken unawares by Wu’s request as it is unheard of for the chief of a navy to make a request to see the CIC of another country’s warship; China itself is not known to throw open its warship CICs to military officers from other countries.
Sources said Wu broke away from protocol by asking to see the CIC. It was learnt that Captain Das explained to Wu that he was not in a position to take him to the CIC but would gladly give him a tour of the rest of the ship.
Chinese officers were given more access to the Shivalik this time than in 2012 when it had come to Shanghai.
Sources said the Chinese officers were very interested in Shivalik and was surprised that it had sailed all the way from Port Blair without any escort vessel or any other supervisory officer on board other than Captain Das himself.
Das refused to comment on the Wu Shengli incident and instead said that the exercise went off smoothly and that he was looking forward to engaging with the Chinese navy more frequently and deeply.
“This was the highest engagement with the Chinese navy we have had so far. But we do not want to stop at this and every year the level should go higher and higher,” Das told HT.
“We brought a Chetak helicopter that was deployed during the exercise which was an anti-hijack operation. Three ships, one each from China, Indonesia and India took part in the exercise,” Das said.
Ships from Pakistan, Singapore, Brunei and Bangladesh participated in the exercise carried out in different groups.