Indian frontline warships test waters in South China sea
Indian warships are currently on an operational deployment to the South China Sea, which China seeks to control and where the Communist neighbour is locked in intractable disputes with several countries that claim parts of the sea.
"Three frontline warships departed Indian shores in mid-June and have since been operating in the South China Sea and the Western Pacific," a navy officer said on Tuesday.
The warships are returning to India after conducting naval drills with the US and Japan in the north-western Pacific Ocean as part of the Malabar exercise. China has been suspicious of the trilateral engagement and has even lodged formal protests in the past.
The deployment to the South China Sea comes at a time when Beijing's aggressive posturing in the resource-rich waters has shifted global attention to the Asia-Pacific region. China has objected to India's oil exploration efforts in the sea, despite the blocks allotted to New Delhi falling in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone.
The navy officer called the deployment "a fine demonstration of the operational reach and pursuit of India's 'Look East' policy." INS Shivalik, a guided missile frigate, arrived at Hai Phong port in Vietnam on Tuesday on a three-day visit during which joint drills will be conducted.
China had snapped at India in May for its remark on the increasingly tense situation developing between China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea, saying New Delhi need not worry about it.
Beijing's sharp reaction came after New Delhi said it was worried about the developments in the South China Sea where Chinese ships had rammed into Vietnamese vessels.
Former navy chief admiral DK Joshi had said in December 2012 that the navy was conducting exercises in the South China Sea and was prepared to counter any aggression to guard the country's interests.