In the backdrop of mounting tensions between Japan and China over Chinese enforcement of a ‘no-fly zone’ over the disputed Senkaku a.k.a Diaoyu group of islands, Indian and Japan Coast Guard chiefs held a high-level meeting in Delhi on Monday. They also witnessed from aboard Indian Coast Guard’s advanced offshore patrol vessel Samrat a joint exercise conducted some 20 nautical miles off Kochi on Tuesday.

“The matter of jurisdiction of Senkaku islands is the biggest issue facing the Japan Coast Guard,” Admiral Yuji Sato, Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, told the media at a joint interaction aboard ICGS Samrat. “Senkaku is our territory. But due to Chinese advances in the sector, it has come up as an issue now. Our effort, however, is not to escalate it. On a daily basis, we are working hard to ensure safe and secure seas as per the international laws,” he said in response to a query from The Hindu.

Terming his visit as successful, Admiral Sato said the Japan Coast Guard intended to work towards increasing collaboration with its Indian counterpart. He had special praise for the high skill-levels of both agencies. The Admiral said while piracy in the Gulf of Aden was down thanks to intensive multi-naval patrol, the spread of piracy to the Arabian Sea and the Strait of Hormuz made it mandatory to enhance capabilities of coastal States in the region to deal with it effectively.

Vice-Admiral Anurag G. Thapliyal, Director General of the Indian Coast Guard, said both forces placed emphasis on developing jointness and interoperability in order to be able to work together in a better fashion, understanding each other’s operating procedures.

He said Japan, an archipelagic country, had the second largest Coast Guard in the world which carried out a variety of tasks. “There are areas of benefit to both forces which include cooperation in search and rescue (SAR), pollution response, training and capacity-building and maritime law enforcement.”

Earlier, the joint exercise, the 13 in a series of annual exercises launched in 1999, was held with participation by Japan Coast Guard ship Mizuho along with its integral helicopter; Indian Coast Guard Ship Samrat; interceptor vessel C-404, which in the simulated drill acted as a pirate-controlled vessel; a Chetak helicopter and a Dornier maritime reccee aircraft.

Named Sahayog-Kaijin 2014, the bilateral exercise saw both forces carry out cross-deck landings; anti-piracy operations with combat boarding teams from both vessels conducting search and arrest of pirates from a simulated hijacked vessel; search and rescue ops and fighting fire on a ship.

Inspector General SPS Basra, Commander, Coast Guard Region (West) and senior officials of Japan Coast Guard witnessed the exercise from ICGS Samrat.

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