In apparent bid to flex its muscles in the South China Sea, Chinese ships have reportedly come in close proximity of the ongoing Association of South-East Nations Association (ASEAN) naval drill there. Indian Navy is also participating in the maiden exercise.
The move by the Chinese militia on Monday was also seen as an attempt to disturb the maritime exercise, sources said here adding it was attempt to escalate tension in the region. They also said the participating ships in the ASEAN drill have taken defensive manoeuvres in response to the Chinese action.
It was learnt the Chinese militia on its way to Spratlys Island changed its course and started heading towards the South China Sea where ‘Exercise Flotilla’ was being conducted. According to sources, the distance of the Chinese ship from the location of the ongoing exercise has been reduced to 30 km from 145 km in the last five hours.
According to a statement released by the Indian Navy, the joint drill is aimed at “promoting maritime cooperation and enhancing trust, friendship and confidence among the ASEAN and Indian navies”.
The harbour phase of the exercise was held at the Changi Naval Base, Singapore from May two to four, while the sea phase was scheduled to be conducted on May seven and eight in the South China Sea. Notably, this is not the first time that the Indian Navy is conducting an exercise with the navies of other countries in the South China Sea.
China has longstanding territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea with several members of the regional bloc including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The opening ceremony of the inaugural ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise (AIME-23) was held at the Changi Naval Base in Singapore last week. Indian ships INS Satpura and INS Delhi are participating in the exercise along with its P-8 I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and his Singaporean counterpart Rear Admiral Sean Wat, and senior dignitaries from ASEAN were present. The regional bloc consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The inaugural edition of AIME is being co-hosted by the Republic of Singapore Navy and Indian Navy.
Beijing has been increasingly belligerent in stressing its claims in the South China Sea.