India, China to hold military exercise today

SINGAPORE NOV. 13. The first-ever Sino-Indian military exercise, scheduled for tomorrow off Shanghai on China's eastern seaboard, will be a "simple", yet "significant" event, according to the Chief of Naval Staff, Madhvendra Singh.

Responding to questions from The Hindu at a select media event, Admiral Singh, now on a visit to Singapore, said: "It is not the nature of the [imminent] exercise, but the very fact that the two navies are exercising, that is significant".

Outlining the scope, he said: "Right now, it is a very simple exercise, just a search-and-rescue exercise. There will be a small setting. We will field two ships and they will field, I think, two ships as well and some helicopters".

About the initiative for this win-win confidence-building exercise, he said: "We have been interacting with each other. There have been port calls by Chinese ships at Indian ports and [by] our warships [at] the Chinese [ports]. There have been exchanges of senior officers at various levels. And, I think, this will get strengthened in the years to come. I will not say that it is purely an Indian initiative [to hold the naval exercise]. ... These are matters where two countries and navies have a dialogue. I think both of us agreed that it would be in the interests of the countries and the two navies to commence these exercises".

Asked about the suggestions from the United States and Australia that India join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which would entail interceptions of "suspect" vessels on the high seas to prevent "rogue" production and transfer of weapons of mass destruction, he said: "We have not yet got the full details of it. .... Once we know what exactly it implies, then the [Indian] Government should decide whether or not to join it. But, the concerns at sea [terrorism, piracy etc.] are common, and, therefore, if it is in the interests of the international community and, of course, of India, I have no doubt that the Government will join it".

Underlining that "the PSI has just been floated" by a few countries, he said India's response could be different if the study, now under way, were to give cause for "some reservations".

On India's recent gesture of providing security-related escort for U.S. ships carrying high-value cargo through the Straits of Malacca, the Navy Chief said: "We took part in that operation, the Straits of Malacca patrol as we call it, as part of the [international] coalition against terrorism".

He cited specific requests from Mauritius and Mozambique as other examples of the Indian Navy's readiness to help in anti-terror operations as also conventional security upkeep.

In "mutual interest", India remained ready to help others on the model of "the Straits of Malacca patrol".

The Japanese ships, too, had berthed at Indian ports for refuelling or rest-and-recreation purposes, while extending logistical support to the U.S. in regard to the Afghan anti-terror theatre.

Admiral Singh, who is also Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, said the possibility of cooperation with Singapore's Army and Air Force would be explored under the broad-based memorandum that the two countries had signed very recently.

So far, naval cooperation, especially anti-submarine warfare exercises, had dominated the India-Singapore military interactions.