Indian Navy chief on maiden visit to China

April 20th, 2009 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) On the maiden visit of an Indian Navy chief to China, Admiral Sureesh Mehta will be attending the Chinese International Fleet Review during his week-long tour, an official said here.
Seeking to engage the Chinese military on a greater level, Mehta flew to China on Saturday night and will return April 25.

“Mehta is visiting China on the invitation of (People’s Liberation Army Navy chief) Admiral Wu Sheng Li. He met Li on Sunday (April 19) and will be attending the Chinese fleet review, in which our warships are also participating,” a senior Indian Navy officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The fleet review is being held to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). The fleet review, being held off Tsingtao port in Shandong province April 20-24, will also see participation of Indian Navy guided missile destroyers INS Mumbai and INS Ranveer, the guided missile corvette INS Khanjar and the tanker INS Jyoti. Pakistani warships also are taking part in the review.

“Mehta will also be visiting ships and submarines of the Chinese navy during this trip and will be calling on Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie on April 22,” the officer said.

Another navy officer added: “We want to engage the Chinese Navy on a broader scale.”

The Indian Navy has for long expressed apprehension about the increased presence of its Chinese counterpart in the Indian Ocean region and hopes to blunt its thrust through greater cooperation. A joint exercise by the two navies has been in the offing for some time now.

The two nations, who fought a brief but bloody border war in 1962, have seen steadily ramping up their military ties.

Indian and Chinese warships have been making calls at each other’s ports as part of growing confidence building measures between the two sides.

The Indian Navy chief’s visit follows that of Admiral Wu’s to India last year. The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, has also visited China.

The IAF’s Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT), which has enthralled spectators worldwide with its intricate manoeuvres in the skies, also performed in China for the first time in 2008.

The two armies undertook their first joint exercise at Kunming in China’s Yunnan province in December 2007 and the second at Belgaum in Karnataka last December.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in May 2006 during a visit to Beijing by then defence minister Pranab Mukherjee that stipulated they would hold joint military exercises, join forces in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts and also cooperate in search and rescue operations.

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