Four Indian naval ships arrive here on a rare port call

A top officer of the East Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has called for improving trust with India and boosting exchanges, ahead of passage exercises between the two navies that will be held here on Saturday.

Rear Admiral Gu Xiangping, who is the Deputy Commander of the Chinese East Sea Fleet, called for “enhancing trust and understanding” between the militaries and navies of India and China, and increasing the frequency of interactions.

In what officials described as a reflection of the importance China has accorded to the visit of four Indian naval ships, which arrived here on a rare port call on Wednesday after stops in Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan, the PLAN dispatched the highest ranked official in charge of the East Sea fleet, Vice Admiral Su Zhiqian, from its headquarters in Ningbo. He held talks here with Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, who came in from India only for the port calls in China and Japan.

The visit of the Indian navy ships, which include the indigenous built guided missile stealth frigate Shivalik, destroyer Rana, corvette Karmuk and fleet tanker Shakti, has been described by the Indian and the Chinese officials as the highlight of defence exchanges this year.

The ships will head to Malaysia's Port Kelang on Saturday. The ships will hold passage exercises with the PLAN as they leave the Shanghai harbour on Saturday morning. While officials said the routine passage exercises were far removed from joint naval exercises, which India and China currently do not hold, they described the on-going visit as an important first step.

“We do not have the kind of familiarity or inter-operability as we do with the Americans or Japanese, so this kind of visit helps,” an officer said.

Vice Admiral Chopra said he welcomed more visits by the PLAN to build trust. “The friendship and cooperation between the Chinese navy and the Indian Navy is growing every year, and especially this year, which is being marked as the year of friendship and cooperation,” he said.

“The aim of this year is to increase exchanges between China and India so that there are no misunderstandings and we learn to cooperate and trust each other much more.”

“We were very happy when the Chinese navy ship visited Kochi [last month],” he added. “We are hopeful this year that more Chinese navy ships will come and visit India in different ports.”

His comments were echoed by Rear Admiral Gu, who said recent years had seen “sound and healthy development of friendship between the two militaries,” which would benefit both countries and the region.

He had “confidence” that this week's visit would “enhance mutual understanding and trust between China and India, and further the relationship between the two militaries, and particularly, the two navies.”

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