NEW DELHI/BEIJING: An Indian Navy vessel appears to have been warned by the Chinese Navy off the coast of Vietnam against entering Chinese waters in late July, but India sought to downplay the incident on Thursday.
The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said, “The Indian Naval vessel, INS Airavat paid a friendly visit to Vietnam between 19 to 28 July 2011. 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 a distance of 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’ stating that ‘you are entering Chinese waters’. No ship or aircraft was visible from INS Airavat, which proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled.”
The Ministry went on to say that “there was no confrontation involving INS Airavat.”
However, it added that “India supports freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law. These principles should be respected by all.”
In Beijing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sought to obfuscate the issue by saying that inquiries have been made with the “competent authorities” about the reported incident but so far no information has been receive.