India, Vietnam hold naval exercise in South China Sea

New Delhi, Aug 18 (PTI) India and Vietnam on Wednesday carried out a naval exercise in the resource-rich South China Sea, a region that has been witnessing growing Chinese bullying and militarisation.

The Indian Navy deployed its guided-missile destroyer Ranvijay and guided-missile corvette Kora for the exercise with the Vietnamese Navy, signalling growing convergence of interests in the maritime security domain, officials said.

Both India and Vietnam have common concerns over China’s military expansionism in the South China Sea.

“In continuation with ongoing deployment of Indian Navy ships in the South China Sea, INS Ranvijay and INS Kora undertook bilateral maritime exercise with Vietnam People’s Navy frigate Ly Thai To on Wednesday,” Indian Navy spokesperson Commander Vivek Madhwal said.

He said the exercise was aimed at consolidating the strong bond of cooperation between the two navies.

Vietnam, an important country of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), has territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea region.

India has oil exploration projects in the Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims.

Last month, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Vietnamese counterpart Sr Lt Gen Phan Van Giang, during a phone conversation, vowed to further enhance bilateral military-to-military cooperation.

In early August, the Indian Navy deployed a naval task group comprising four frontline warships for a two-month voyage to the South China Sea, Western Pacific and South East Asia, in a move aimed at enhancing its profile in the strategically key sea lanes.

INS Ranvijay and INS Kora are part of the task group.

The Navy spokesperson said the two ships arrived at Cam Ranh, Vietnam on August 15 for the harbour phase of the exercise that included professional interactions with the Vietnamese Navy.

“The sea phase included surface warfare exercises, weapon firing drills and helicopter operations. Regular interactions between the two navies over the years have enhanced their interoperability and adaptability,” Commander Madhwal said.

“This has ensured a quantum jump in the complexity and scale of professional exchanges. This visit also holds special importance as Indian Naval ships celebrated the country’s 75th Independence Day in Vietnam,” he said.

INS Ranvijay is a guided-missile destroyer and the latest of the Rajput class ship.

The ship was commissioned in December 1987 and is equipped with an array of weapons and sensors which includes surface-to-surface missiles, anti-air missiles and guns, heavyweight Torpedoes and anti-submarine rockets.

INS Kora is the lead ship of Kora class missile corvette and it is fitted with surface-to-surface missiles and anti-air guns.