M A I N   N E W S

India, China deny tiff on high seas
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 1
India and China have separately denied reports in a UK newspaper which hinted that the navies of the two neighbours had a tiff off the coast of Vietnam in July in the South China Sea.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Defence in separate denials have made it clear that there was no confrontation. The Chinese foreign office was quoted in media as having said that “we have no information about the incident”.

An official spokesperson said Indian Naval warship INS Airavat paid a friendly visit to Vietnam between July 19 and 28. On July 22, INS Airavat sailed from the Vietnamese port of Nha Trang towards Hai Phong, where it was to make a port call. At 45 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea, it was contacted on open radio channel by a caller identifying himself as the “Chinese Navy” and stating that “you are entering Chinese waters”. No ship or aircraft was visible from the INS Airavat, which proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled, the spokesperson said.

“There was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat,” the spokesperson said, adding that “India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with international law”.

Sources here explained that warships do not interact with each other on the high seas unless the nations are friendly, hence there was no question of the Indian warship responding to any call by any warship on the high seas. And there is no question of one ship stopping the other as being quoted in the UK newspaper. Also, being in international waters, India was not duty bound to inform China about its warship being in Vietnam. The INS Airavat is a 5,600 tonne amphibious warship -- having the capacity to land troops and vehicles close to a coast without having to berth at a conventional harbour jetty. It was commissioned in 2009.

China in July last year claimed “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have been irked by Chinese claims that extended hundred of miles beyond the internationally accepted maritime boundaries.





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