NATIONAL

Sino-Indian naval exercise on Nov. 14

SINGAPORE NOV. 6. A Sino-Indian naval "search and rescue exercise'' will be held off Shanghai along China's eastern seaboard on November 14, it was announced in Beijing today.

The military exercise, the first of its kind between the two countries, will help diversify the bilateral relationship that has already entered a qualitatively new phase following the visit of the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to China last June, according to diplomatic sources.

Characterising the prospective exercise as a positive development, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson noted that the objective was bilateral cooperation in the non-traditional security sector.

While the finer details of the non-traditional security-dimension of the prospective Sino-Indian exercise have not been announced, India's naval units completed several months ago a specific project of providing security cover for the passage of high-value American cargo through the Straits of Malacca.

According to official sources, at least two Chinese naval vessels and three Indian warships will participate in the exercise.

A destroyer, INS Ranjit, and a missile corvette, INS Kulish, besides a tanker, INS Jyoti, will be taking part on the Indian side.