Senior defence sources said one of the Chinese warships engaged in anti-piracy patrols would call on Kochi. The modalities of this visit are currently being worked out. It points to a thaw between the two countries particularly in the naval dimension.
“There has been a noticeable uptake in our relations with China in recent months,” senior defence sources told India Today.
A visit by defence secretary Shashikant Sharma to Beijing this January cleared the decks for resumption of military exercises.
Both countries have been trying to prevent a maritime confrontation at sea, particularly over the South China Sea which China claims as its own.
In 2011, an Indian naval warship off Vietnam was challenged by a broadcast that told it was transiting through Chinese waters. In December 2012, navy chief Admiral D.K. Joshi said India would protect its assets in the South China Sea.
China has currently deployed a Type 052 destroyer Qingdao, a Type 054A frigate Yantai and the supply ship Weishanhu for protecting merchant ships from pirates in the Gulf of Aden.
In June last year, four Indian warships from the Eastern Fleet led by the missile destroyer INS Rana visited Shanghai on a four-day goodwill visit. It was the first visit by Indian warships to China after six years. China followed it up with a series of visits.
Last year, the PLA’s training ship Zheng He called in on Kochi. An Indian cadet was embarked on the ship at Singapore as it sailed into Cochin.
The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark had earlier visited Kochi in 2011 but the current visit is also significant.