Indo-US maritime exercise matter of concern: China



Beijing, May 19: Indian ships taking part in maritime exercise in the South China Sea was a matter of “concern”, a senior Chinese official said today, a day after four naval vessels set sail for the disputed waters for participating in Malabar exercise with the US and Japan.

The official said the colonial tactics of “divide and rule” was being used.

“When there is some trouble in the South China Sea, India is worried. When Indian ships participate in maritime exercises in the South China Sea, of course China will show concern,” the official told reporters.

The statement comes ahead of President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to China next week.

Guided missile stealth frigates, INS Satpura and INS Sahyadri, INS Shakti, a sophisticated fleet support ship, and INS Kirch, a guided missile corvette, had set sail yesterday on a two-and-a-half month long operational deployment to the South China Sea and North West Pacific.

They will also take part in the Malabar exercise near the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty on almost all of the South China Sea which is disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The US, which had been pushing for Japan’s inclusion, has said the exercise is an important element for assessing the maritime capabilities of all the three countries.

The US has in recent months ramped up its warnings over what it calls China’s growing “militarisation” in the region.

American warships and aircraft have undertaken a number of operations in the region to challenge China’s moves even as the US hopes to stitch Asian military powers into a closer cooperation.

The US has also been pushing for a quadrilateral security dialogue involving itself, India, Japan and Australia.

Meanwhile, on the issue of terror group JeM chief Masood Azar, the Chinese official said his country has made no difference between India and Pakistan’s enemy.

“You need strong evidence. It is not a bilateral issue, it is at the UN. He (Azar) is not an Indian citizen,” he said, adding that “terrorism sponsor” as a word for Pakistan was a “too heavy title”.

He said that it was good that foreign secretaries of the two countries met.

“We encourage this kind of talk. You don’t have a language barrier and you have been in the same family,” he said.

On the issue of India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Chinese official said China has never blocked the country’s entry into any world body.

“But as member of the UNSC, we are the watchdog of the world, we must ensure the rules. And we must also think about others not just India who want an exception to the rules,” he said.