A People’s Liberation Army navy warship escorted the Indian navy’s frigate Shivalik as it was making its way across international waters of the South China sea from Philippines to South Korea recently.
Shivalik is the flagship vessel leading four Indian navy warships that docked at the Shanghai port on Wednesday; it’s the first time that four Indian warships have made a port call in a Chinese city.
“Welcome to the South China sea, Foxtrot 47”, greeted the Chinese warship. For the next 12 hours, it sailed ahead of the Indian stealth frigate as it navigated across the choppy waters of the South China sea.
Many on board the Indian ships were surprised that the Chinese vessel sailed with the Indian fleet for half a day.
China has been locked in dispute with countries in the South China sea region, most recently with Philippines, over rights over the sea and a group of rocks and reefs known as the Scarborough Shoals; China calls it Huangyan island.
China has also warned other countries not to get involved in the dispute. In September 2011, Indian navy’s Airavat was warned by an unidentified Chinese warship that it was entering Chinese waters as the Indian vessel was making its way from one Vietnamese port to another. This time, though, the welcome was warmer in Shanghai.
Addressing the media on-board Shivalik, vice-admiral Anil Chopra, eastern naval command chief, who flew down for Wednesday’s ceremony, said the two navies will begin a maritime cooperation dialogue this year.
“Sometimes, especially in the media, there can be some misunderstandings. But that is why we engage in a process of dialogue. This year we are starting a maritime dialogue,” he said.
Chopra played down the disputes involving China and India’s increasing presence in the region. “Disputes will arise between nations but they can be resolved in a spirit of peacefulness and cooperation.”