India mulling naval protocol to prevent skirmishes at sea


New Delhi : In the light of some incidents involving warships from Pakistan and China, India is considering a protocol on the lines of the Cold War era arrangement between the US and the erstwhile USSR warships to avoid any skirmishes at sea.

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Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, who was asked if such a protocol is being worked out for incidents at sea, said such an arrangement was being debated within the Indian security establishment now, though no concrete action in this regard had been initiated yet.

Verma was addressing the media at his annual press conference Friday ahead of the Navy Day celebration Dec 4.

“As far as the government is concerned, the countries that we feel there is a possibility of such situations happening, with them the issues will be taken up. It is under examination by the government,” he said.

India has an arrangement with Pakistan and China to deal with incidents at the land border, be it violation of ceasefire with the former or the intrusions of patrol parties with the latter, when border personnel hold talks at the local unit levels.

There are also hot lines between the director general of military operations (DGMO) of India and Pakistan to take up such issues immediately at the highest level.

“As far as the face-to-face meetings are concerned, it does make sense, like the hot lines between the DGMO of our country and some other countries have been in place for quite some time.

“On a similar pattern, as far as the navy is concerned, you have arrangements for tackling incidents at sea, like what happened during the Cold War (between the US and the erstwhile USSR warships), are concerned and as is in place with some other navies. Certainly, this will be looked at by the government,” he added.

Indian warship INS Godavari had a brush with Pakistani ship PNS Babur in the Arabian Sea earlier this year when the former had gone to aid cargo ship MV Suez, which had both Indian and Pakistani crew members on board, after being freed by Somali pirates. PNS Babur, which was escorting MV Suez, had rammed into Godavari damaging its flight deck net.

Later this year, INS Airavat sailing at South China Sea had been threatened over the radio by a person identifying the area as Chinese territory and asking the Indian warship to back off.

In 2009, China claimed its warships had forced an Indian submarine to surface after it was allegedly found tracking the movement of the Chinese ships in the Indian Ocean when these were on their way to join the anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.