New Delhi: Days after the brush off incident between their warships in the Gulf of Aden, Indian Navy on Friday said Pakistani ship PNS Babur had damaged a part of INS Godavari by moving too close to it.

Naval Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma indicated that the matter had been taken up with the international coalition of naval forces operating against piracy.

He said PNS Babur, while escorting Egyptian merchant vessel MV Suez which had been released by Somali pirates, brushed off the Indian ship after moving close as it was coming from behind.

"Our ship was going at a particular speed and the other ship approached from the rear as it must have tried to pass at a certain distance... but it didn't happen as it turned up very close," Verma told reporters after the incident that occurred last week.

"We operate helicopters from ships and we keep the helicopter nets down (during landings). One of our helicopter nets got damaged," he said.

The Naval chief said INS Godavari had been sent to reassure the Indian sailors on board the MV Suez after its release from captivity of Somali pirates.

"After that this incident took place where the Pakistani Navy ship came much closer than what is considered to be prudent by anybody operating ships in the seas," he said.

Asked if the multi-national Combined Task Force 151, under whose command the PNS Babar was operating, had been informed about the incident, Verma said, "You can be sure that everybody knows about that."

India has already lodged a protest with Pakistan over the incident and provided photographic evidence about the dangerous manoeuvres by PNS Babur.

Explaining anti-piracy operations, Verma said warships closest to the merchant vessels under attack or passing through piracy-affected areas provide help to them.

"Irrespective of which nationality a merchant ship belongs to, you find that whichever navy ship is available close it, comes for help. Similarly, the Suez was released by the pirates and was going for the next port of call and sought some escort," he said.

The Navy chief said when ships such as MV Suez are released after long periods of captivity, there is a deep sense of fear among the seafarers on board that while they reach the next port of call, they might be hijacked again.

He said the Navy had advised that the ship be provided with a tug and a vessel protection team which was not followed.

The Navy chief, at the same time, said the Indian warship there was escorting two other ships which had 22 Indians onboard and could not have left them to be targeted by pirates.

"When it seemed that the families of the sailors were not sure of their safety, we decided to show the flag of the Indian warship and it means a lot. So we deployed the ship so that they could see the flag," he said.

On allegations levelled by Pakistan that the Indian warship had postured aggressively and its crew had made obscene gestures against its ship, Verma said the Indian navy conducted itself in the most professional manner during the whole incident. Responding to allegations by the families of Indian sailors that the Navy didn't help them, Verma said, "When MV Suez was going towards Salalah, there was French ship which was 80-90 miles away, we requested them that the crew is worried about pirate attack. The French Navy sent one of its helicopters over the ship, which was even seen by the crew of Suez."

"When navies operate, they are not worried to take credit. We perform tasks that are assigned to us," he added.

Verma said the Indian Navy has escorted over 1,600 merchant vessels through Gulf of Aden in the last two years but only 170 of them were Indian flagships.

"Irrespective of which nationality a merchant ship belongs to, you find that whichever navy ship is available close it, comes for help," he said.

He said in a similar incident, INS Talwar had provided help to MV Asphalt Venture, which did not have a single Indian on board, after it was released by Somali pirates.

Terming the recent face-off between the navies of India and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean as "momentary confusion", External Affairs Minister S M Krishna played down the incident and said there was "nothing substantial" in it.

"That was only a momentary confusion. I think there was nothing substantial about it," Krishna said.

He was replying to a query on how India was reacting to the aggressive gestures shown by Pakistan Naval Ship (PNS) Babur while it was escorting MV Suez in the Indian Ocean.

Following criticism for its slow response to ensure safety of Indian crew member on-board merchant vessel MV Suez, which was released by Somali pirates, India had dispatched a
naval warship INS Godavari to mark its presence in the operation.

Asked about the course of action taken by India to ensure that such incidents are not repeated in the future, Krishna said, "Well, you know we have a navy ship there which
is patrolling the area. I think this is a recurring, continuing irritant."

He refused to comment on the on-going Foreign Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan.

"It would not be appropriate for the Ministry to make any comment when Foreign Secretary (Nirupama Rao) herself is on a very important and delicate mission," Krishna said.

JPN/Agencies