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Indian Navy warships complete Manila visit as part of operational deployment to South China Sea

Indian Navy's Eastern Fleet Ships complete their visit to Manila, Philippines (Photo: PIB)

Indian Navy ships INS Delhi, INS Shakti and INS Kiltan completed their visit to Manila, Philippines as part of the Operational Deployment of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet to the South China Sea.

“The visit demonstrated India’s strong ties with the Philippines and its commitment to further deepen the partnership,” the Ministry of Defence said in a press release.

The port call included Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) between the Indian Navy and personnel of the Philippines Navy, sports fixtures, cross-deck visits, cultural exchanges and collaborative community outreach programmes.

During the visit, R Adm Rajesh Dhankhar, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, and Commanding Officers of ships had an interaction with R Adm Renato David, Commander of Philippine Fleet (CPF), and V Adm Rolando Lizor Punzalan Jr, Deputy Commandant for Operations, Philippine Coast Guard.

FOCEF also held wide-ranging discussions with the Flag Officer in Command (FOIC), Vice Adm Toribio Dulinayan Adaci JT, on the avenues for collaboration, matters of mutual interest and the current security situation in the region and beyond.

The visit provided an opportunity for discussions on enhancing naval cooperation and interoperability between the navies of India and the Philippines.

The port call is a testament to the strong diplomatic and defence ties between India and the Philippines. It is a demonstration of India’s commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region in consonance with its ‘Act East’ and SAGAR policies.

Tensions between China and the Philippines have escalated over the Scarborough Shoal as Manila has taken a more assertive approach in disputed areas.

Approximately 220 kilometres off the coast of the Philippines and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the shoal is a traditional fishing ground used by multiple nations and located close to important shipping channels.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an EEZ extends about 370 km from a country’s coast.

China has claimed almost the entire South China Sea rejecting claims from other nations, including the Philippines, and an international ruling that states that these claims have no legal basis, according to an Al Jazeera report. Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam also claim the parts of the sea.

India and the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations in November 1949, shortly after both countries gained independence.

The relations between the two countries have been cordial and muted.

Indian Navy and Coast Guard ships regularly visit the Philippines. The participation of officers of the armed forces of both countries in various specialized training courses in each other’s countries has intensified as have visits by National Defence College delegations.