New Delhi : India Thursday rejected reports of an alleged confrontation between an Indian Navy ship and a Chinese vessel off the coast of Vietnam and stressed it expected all countries to respect the freedom of navigation in international waters.
“There was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said here when asked about reports of a face-off between Indian naval ship and a Chinese warship.
Explaining the chain of events on July 22, the spokesperson said INS Airavat paid a friendly visit to Vietnam between July 19-28. 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’,” the spokesperson said. “No ship or aircraft was visible from INS Airavat, which proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled,” he added.
The spokesperson stressed that India backed “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,” he added.
A recent report in the London-based Financial Times said an unidentified Chinese warship demanded that an Indian naval vessel identify itself and explain its presence in the South China Sea off Vietnam in July. The report was seen by many as a sign of China’s increasing maritime assertiveness in South China Sea.
China claims the South China Sea in its entirety, rejecting claims by other nations like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei over the resource-rich region.