Stern message to China: Indian warships head to South China Sea
India is sending a naval task force to the South China Sea this month to expand security ties with friendly countries, the Indian navy said in a statement on Wednesday. The move signals India's intent to play a bigger role in regional efforts to counter China.
Four ships, including a guided missile destroyer and a missile frigate, will be deployed for a two-month period to southeast Asia, the South China Sea and the western Pacific, the navy said in the statement.
"The deployment of the Indian Navy ships seeks to underscore the operational reach, peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain..." the navy said.
The Indian ships will take part in annual joint war drills involving the United States, Japan and Australia - the group known as Quad along with India - off the coast of Guam, the navy said. The Quad has emerged as a platform to counter an assertive China.
The mood of Indian navy has hardended following the clashes between Indian and Chinese militaries in Galwan in East Ladakh last year.
South China Sea has emerged as one of the flashpoints between China and other countries, including smaller ones like the Philippines, Vietnam etc who accuse the dragon of exercising undue pressure in the region by claiming it as its own territory.
The United States and Britain too have deployed their respective naval vessels in the region. The Elizabeth carrier strike group is heading to Japan to exercise with its maritime forces. Japan has shown urgency to ramp up its military capabilities and deepen military cooperation with Quad and other allies at a time when China has emerged as country's top security threat.
China had recently threatened to nuke Japan if it interferes in Taiwan or East China Sea by saying that Beijing will revisit its no first use option.
Meanwhile, Washington too has rejected what it calls unlawful territorial claims by Beijing in the resource-rich waters.
In June, a US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Ronald Reagan entered the South China Sea as part of a routine mission.