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India, China to Hold Joint Naval Exercises

India and China will hold their first-ever joint naval exercises off the Shanghai port on Nov. 14 in which frontline warships of the two navies and aircraft and helicopters will take part.

A naval spokesman told the Press Trust of India in New Delhi Wednesday that an Indian naval task force comprising three warships -- INS Ranjit, a Russian guided missile destroyer, INS Kulish, a guided missile corvette and INS Jyoti, a replenishment tanker -- have set sail for the South China Sea and will be making a port call at Shanghai from Nov. 10-14.

"The task force will carry out search and rescue exercise (Sarex) with the units of the People's Liberation Navy on Nov. 14 in the East China Sea," the spokesman said. The taskforce is commanded by Rear Admiral R. P. Suthan, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Fleet.

Describing the exercises as a "stepping stone in enhancing inter-operability between the two navies", the spokesman said that the decision to hold the joint exercises was taken during the Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China in June.

The spokesman said the exercise was aimed at ensuring the safety of maritime trade and improving coordination in search and rescue at sea.

This would be the first time that the armed forces of the countries, hitherto locked in eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation for over four decades, would be undertaking an exercise of this magnitude.

The exercises assume significance as navigation in the South China Sea and the neighboring Malacca Straits has been plagued by sea piracy.

India, Indonesia, Singapore as well as the US navies, have been cooperating over the last few years to hold regular joint patrolling of the sea lanes in the area.

(Xinhua News Agency November 6, 2003)

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