New Delhi: India on Thursday rejected reports of an alleged confrontation between an Indian Navy ship and a Chinese vessel off the coast of Vietnam and stressed it expected all countries to respect the freedom of navigation in international waters.

“There was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said here when asked about reports of a face-off between Indian naval ship and a Chinese warship.  

Explaining the chain of events on July 22, the spokesperson said INS Airavat paid a friendly visit to Vietnam between July 19-28. On July 22, INS Airavat sailed from the Vietnamese port of Nha Trang towards Hai Phong, where it was to make a port call.

“At a distance of 45 nautical miles from the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea, it was contacted on open radio channel by a caller identifying himself as the 'Chinese Navy' stating that 'you are entering Chinese waters',” the spokesperson said.

“No ship or aircraft was visible from INS Airavat, which proceeded on her onward journey as scheduled,” he added.

The spokesperson stressed that India backed 'freedom of navigation in international waters, including in the South China Sea, and the rite of passage in accordance with accepted principles of international law.'

“These principles should be respected by all,” he added.

Recent reports in the London-based Financial Times said an unidentified Chinese warship demanded that an Indian naval vessel identify itself and explain its presence in the South China Sea off Vietnam in July. The report was seen by many as a sign of China's increasing maritime assertiveness in South China Sea.

China claims the South China Sea in its entirety, rejecting claims by other nations like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei over the resource-rich region.


Chinese warship confronts Indian vessel

Earlier, a Chinese warship confronted an Indian naval vessel shortly after it left Vietnamese waters in late July in the first such reported encounter between the Navy's of the two countries in the disputed South China Sea.

The unidentified Chinese warship demanded that the India's INS Airawat, an amphibious assault vessel identify itself and explain its presence in the South China Sea, said a London based paper.

The London-based paper said, that the Indian warship was in international water after completing a scheduled port call in Vietnam.

It termed the actions of the Chinese warship as the latest example of Beijing's assertiveness which had irked India and Vietnam.

China claimed that South China Sea in its entirety, rejecting claims by other nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over the resource rich region.

The paper said that Vietnamese Foreign Ministry has acknowledged that the Indian warship had visited the country from July 19-22 but said, it had no information about the incident.

The paper stated that Chinese Defence and foreign ministries declined comment as did the Indian government.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently condemned acts of intimidation in the international waters in an apparent reference to mounting tensions in the South China Sea.

A Pentagon report last week had said China was rapidly building up its surface and underwater naval capabilities as it places growing priority on securing shipping lanes and mineral rich areas in South China Sea.


Not worried over Chinese moves: IAF Chief

In the backdrop of US official reports suggesting that China was deploying nuclear-capable missiles along the borders with India, the Air Force on Thursday said it was not "worried" over these developments and has its own plans to deal with the issue.
   
"These are all known, it is nothing that we are worried about. We have our own plans and we are moving ahead with our own plans. These are the realities we have to deal with," Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne told reporters on the sidelines of a CII event here.
   
He was responding to a query on the US Pentagon reports suggesting that the Chinese People's Liberation Army has deployed nuclear missiles along the borders.
   
However, the Pentagon reports have been dismissed by the Chinese government also.
   
Asked that what could India learn from China in developing its indigenous aerospace industry, the IAF chief said, "One thing that one could learn from them is that they don't attempt to do everything themselves."
     
"Once you start the Research and Development and then wait and wait, then you make it the test-tube model, it takes you 20-30 years (to finalise the project)," he said.
   
Browne said that though India doesn't have direct evidence, but "we still do know that despite all the sanctions and all other things, they (China) got a fair amount of technology from outside."

(Agencies)