Continued from the article mentioned in Part One (and all subsequent parts under the same heading as this). In July this year INS Airavat, an amphibious assault ship, sailed from the Vietnamese port of Nha Trang towards Hai Phong, and when it was forty-five nautical miles in the South China Sea, it was contacted on an open radio channel by a caller who identified himself as the Chinese Navy. Airavat was told it was entering Chinese waters. It was not clear to the ship where this broadcast originated. The captain did not see any ship or aircraft around the vessel. The broadcast did not identify the Airavat or mention any other detail pertaining to her. Airavat proceeded on her scheduled journey.
Although the Foreign Office subsequently clarified there was no confrontation, the spokesperson took pains to underline that India supported “freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the right of passage in accordance with the accepted principles of international law.” In case Beijing missed the point, the foreign office urged that “These principles should be respected by all.”
Later, when India signed a commercial contract with Vietnam to start oil exploration in the South China Sea, a strong statement was made by China to stay off what they called the Chinese Economic Zone.
It is a delicate balancing game. Notes a Ministry of External Affairs official wryly:” While China may be having deeper relations with some South Asian countries, India has also moved into East Asia. It has not gone unnoticed by China. Look at some of the articles in Global Times. It is more nationalistic, but remember it is still a state-run paper.”
Explains Ranade: “The Global Times is a subsidiary of the People’s Daily; its editor is the deputy editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily. It’s official, but racy. The articles carried in it are approved by the propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party.” One article warned foreign oil companies prospecting in that area, might hear the sound of cannons. China claims three million square km of the South China Sea, which are disputed. China wants this sorted out bilaterally, others multilaterally