The south jetty of the Southern Naval Command looked majestic on Monday with two tall ships — INS Tarangini and its younger sibling INS Sudarshini — gracing it.

While Tarangini was fresh from a refit, Sudarshini had just returned from a 121-day-long voyage as India’s ‘ambassador at sea’ to the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) — a diplomatic role it fulfilled in India’s quest to further cement its long-standing ties with the region.

On Monday, Defence Minister A.K. Antony led heads of missions of Asean in India and family members of naval personnel in according a rousing reception to the vessel, which sailed over 13,700 nautical miles as part of the historic nine-nation voyage.

“Neighbours need not share borders… [They] must share common goals and interests. India and Asean cooperation symbolises this sentiment of sharing,” Mr. Antony said. Outlining India’s historical maritime ties with South East Asia, he said the voyage reaffirmed India’s commitment to strengthening its economic, security, cultural and diplomatic bonds with countries of the grouping.

Mr Antony described the voyage as indicative of India’s commitment towards constructive engagement with the Asean in the fields of security, commerce, trade and culture. He said the relationship was bound to grow in view of the common challenges of development and strategic interests.

Vice-Admiral Satish Soni, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command, said the vagaries of weather encountered by the ship in the South China Sea had turned the cadets on board Sudarshini into men.

Besides training Indian naval and Coast Guard cadets, Sudarshini had embarked foreign cadets and officers in various stages of the voyage. Captained by Commander N Shyam Sundar, the ship hosted numerous visitors, dignitaries and school children during her port calls.

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