An unusually bold demand by China’s top navy commander during a multinational naval training drill this week has raised eyebrows in India.
Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy and member of the Central Military Commission, asked to be shown the Combat Information Centre (CIC) of an Indian frigate, Indian media reported. The CIC is the ship’s command centre.
The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Puruvir Das, declined Wu’s request citing operating procedures, The Hindu reported on Friday . The INS Shivalik hosted the Chinese navy chief on Tuesday during its port call in Qingdao, the headquarters of the PLA Navy’s North Sea Fleet in Shandong province.
“The Indian side were taken unawares by Wu’s request as it is unheard of for the chief of a navy to make a request to see the CIC of another country’s warship,” the Hindustan Times, another leading Indian newspaper, wrote .
A staff member at the Indian embassy in Beijing confirmed that Admiral Wu had visited the Shivalik on Tuesday, but had no information about Wu’s request.
The stealth frigate arrived in Qingdao on Sunday to participate in multinational training exercises involving 17 ships from eight countries. It is the Shivalik’s second visit to China. Chinese military was given more access to the ship on this occasion than during its first visit to Shanghai last year, the Hindustan Times reported.
The incident this week was not the first to raise suspicions in India over Chinese interest in the country’s naval fleet.
In March, India’s navy rejected a Chinese request to allow PLA Navy ships to enter Indian waters to search for the wreckage of a missing Malaysian Airlines flight in what Indian observers saw as a disguised effort at military intelligence gathering.
The navies of India and China are both jostling for influence within the overall military bureaucratic structure of their own respective country, said Dibyesh Anand, associate professor of international relations at the University of Westminster in London.
"At the same time, they have to increase their level of interaction and maintain a minimal level of cooperation," he said. "Differences such as these are more likely to increase and become public."
Another visitor to the frigate on Tuesday was Japan’s navy chief Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano. He was in Qingdao to participate in the biennial Western Pacific Naval Symposium. While Japan participated in the 21-country conference, China earlier declined to invite Japan to join in the exercise because of the territorial dispute between the two countries in the East China Sea.
In a sign of improving ties between Japan and India, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force is expected to join the annual Malabar sea exercises later this year after a five-year hiatus. India had refrained from inviting Japan to participate in the Indo-US exercise because of Chinese objections.
“We have been wanting very much to join the Malabar sea exercises, with United States and India,” Admiral Kawano reportedly said at the reception on the missile frigate on Tuesday, according to The Hindu .