Interview with Eastern Commander of Indian Navy

On the afternoon of November 12, R.P. Suthan, Eastern Commander of Indian Navy, accepted an exclusive interview with reporter who was led by a military attach¨¦ aboard the destroyer Ranjit berthing at the port of the Yangtze River.

How have you been getting along these days in Shanghai?

We had a very good time. Upon our arrival that afternoon, we met with Rear Admiral Xu Jiwen, Commander of the Shanghai Base of the Chinese Navy. Then we met with Vice Admiral Zhao Guojun, Commander of the East Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy, and had a beneficial talk with him. Yesterday morning, accompanied by Xu, we visited the naval vessels in the Shanghai Naval Base. After that we invited General Zhao Guojun to our three ships. In addition, our officers and soldiers also went sightseeing in Shanghai city. You can see that both sides have had exchanges and contacts at various levels, both formal and informal.

Of course, at the time when navies of the two countries are conducting their first cooperation, we also discussed many procedural matters, including communication, to ensure the success of the military exercise and both sides benefit most from the cooperation.

It is learned from an earlier media interview with an Indian official that the detailed plan for the military exercise would not be fixed until after the discussion between the two sides in Shanghai. Has the plan been set now? And what is the result?

Yes, we have reached an agreement. The military exercise will be launched in the East China Sea area. Ranjit will leave the port at 9 am November 14 and the Chinese Navy will send a light cruiser and a supply ship for the exercise. The ships of the two navies will assemble at sea. The military drill is composed of three parts: first, the exchange exercise; second, the ship formation and then the search and rescue exercise at sea. In this process, an Indian seaman will board a ship of the Chinese Navy and, assuming that there is an accident on that ship, we will send helicopters to "rescue" the seaman from the Chinese ship and bring him back to an Indian ship. Besides, the two sides will have joint exercise of fire fighting. And then, it is almost dark when these exercises are completed, the ships of both sides will return. The military function includes cracking down on pirates.

Why the subject of the first Sino-Indian joint military drill was set as search and rescue exercise? Is it aimed at attacking pirates?

Maybe you are very keen to know that about eight to ten months ago, India and the United States had their first joint maneuver at sea, which was also a search and rescue exercise. Now we have two search and rescue exercises with the United States each year.

Pirate is an old trade and it has emerged since the very beginning of marine trade. Now piratical crime is on the rise and has, as far as I know, increased 200 percent these years. Therefore we need to have naval patrol against pirates. The control in this field is being tightened especially after the "9.11" incident in 2001.

Is it right to say that in a search and rescue exercise, the political significance outdoes the military significance?

No. Military affairs have multi-level functions. Apart from conveying good wishes among various countries, the navy of every country can play an important role in peaceful periods. We have a common mission in peacetime, and that is to conduct sea patrol to ensure the security at sea and prevent commercial sailing from pirates. Another duty is the rescue at sea. Delhi (a guided missile destroyer) does not come this time for it is too busy.

We know that Ranjit is one of the excellent guided missile destroyers of Indian Navy, but the best one is Delhi. Delhi has been sent by India for several military maneuvers with the United States and Russia in the past two years, why not to China this time?

Delhi had been to Shanghai for a goodwill visit in September 2000, long before India's military exercises with Russia and the United States. And now Delhi has other tasks.

Furthermore, Delhi is no longer India's best destroyer now. We are constantly putting out new types. The new ships will possibly come to China in the future. I hope this will happen in the year 2004 or 2005. Indian ships will come to China again.

After the contacts these days, what do you think of the Chinese Navy?

The Chinese Navy has made a very good impression on me. Their ships are functionally excellent, properly maintained and are of high efficiency. The officers and soldiers are very friendly and straightforward. They exchanged views and experience with us from a purely professional perspective.

The upcoming joint military exercise is the first one since the diplomatic relations between China and India were established over 50 years ago. As a participant, what do you think of this historic event?

India and China are both ancient civilizations. The economic and cultural relations between us have begun several thousand years before. But this military exercise represents another stride forward. Its historic significance lies in that the two countries are beginning to act upon and get to know each other. We were very honored to invite the Chinese fleet to India in 2001.They will come to India again in the future so will we to China. This action may be regarded as a continuation of the exchanges that have lasted for several thousand years. India does not form alliance with any country.

How does India view China? A threat, a natural rival? Or a cooperator?

India and China are both ancient countries in terms of culture and are friends. The international environment is changing constantly but the fact that the two countries are neighbors will never change. The cooperation between the two countries is beneficial to both sides for good. And this is just what we are doing now.

Didn't the wars between the two countries in the 1960s affect the establishment of friendship?

The world is always going ahead and one cannot live in history. During my visit to the city history exhibition hall under the Orient Pearl Tower today, I saw these words: forget the past, work for today and tomorrow, think no more about the magnificence of yesterday. That's it.

What is India's view on NAATO (North America-Asia Treaty Organization)?

I do not see such a saying. I did hear about various alliances such as India-China, India-Sri Lanka. However, we did not align with any country, instead, we did join the Non-Aligned Movement.

By PD Online staff member Gao Lanrong

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