It would appear that Beijing would like to open channels of diplomacy in the maritime domain even as it continues playing a cat and mouse game along the Line of Actual Control on the Himalayan frontier. The People's Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) has accorded a fulsome welcome to the current batch of Indian Navy officers attending the prestigious Naval Higher Command Course (NHCC) at the College of Naval Warfare, located in Karanja in the western state of Maharashtra.
Since graduates of the course almost certainly move on to occupy high positions in the naval hierarchy, Beijing may have decide to make friends and influence people well ahead in time. It is learnt that the batch of twenty nine participants of the course were granted access to the PLAN headquarters in Beijing, the Naval Command College in Nanjing and the Shanghai naval base under the East Sea Command during their visit to China from 15-19 January.
| Russian carrier 'Varyag' under tow: Image: US Naval War College |
The Indian contingent was kept away from the construction activity around its indigenous aircraft carrier, which it is, reportedly, constructing. Indian officers said that PLAN officers conceded that such construction was indeed on but refused to provide details.
According to US estimates, the PLAN may produce a domestic carrier by 2015. It may also begin operating 'Varyag,' a Russian carrier bought in 1998, as a training ship in about two year's time.
Navy sources came away with the impression that China may indeed be turning the corner in its attempts to modernise its navy.
India may have reasons to be concerned about recent Chinese attempts to project its naval presence in Indian Ocean waters.