By WIRAJ SRIPONG
THE SUNDAY NATI
TWO Indian navy vessels - stealth frigate INS Satpura and fleet tanker and support ship INS Shakti - berthed at Sattahip Port last week on a debut goodwill visit that was in line with the country's Act East policy and part of the deployment of the Indian
The two ships arrived at Satthahip, in Chon Buri, last Tuesday and stayed until yesterday. Their mission was to boost Indian-Thai bilateral relations, especially in maritime security and defence cooperation.
The Eastern Fleet conducts regular deployments including to the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.
During the two-month operation, units of the fleet also visited Singapore, Jakarta, Fremantle in Western Australia and Sihanoukville in Cambodia. The operation included a bilateral exercise with the Singapore Navy.
The four-day visit to Sattahip had a broad range of activities, ranging from official calls, a reception, guided tours of the ships and professional exchanges between the two navies.
In 2012, Thailand and India concluded a memorandum of understanding for defence cooperation, enabling exercises, personnel exchanges and training.
The Indo-Thai coordinated patrols in the Andaman Sea, which started in 2005, are a case in point. Not only do the operations contribute to mutual trust, it also aims at enabling effective implementation of the laws of the sea to prevent illegal activities.
India and Thailand share a common 1,000-kilometre maritime border in the Andaman Sea, where most of the trade between the two countries takes place. The two countries also share the common view that international sea lanes must be freely accessed and safety guaranteed.
India Ambassador to Thailand Harsh Vardhan Shringla, highlighted the importance of future cooperation in this domain.
“With both India and Thailand sitting astride some of the most important international maritime shipping lanes, the responsibility to safeguard these sea lines of communication and ensure freedom of navigation is only likely to increase in the future,” he said.
On Wednesday, the INS Satpura’s captain Hari Krishnan gave the Thai media a guided tour. The tour started with an explanation of the ship’s weapons system, which is designed to ward off water surface, air and underwater threats. The INS Satpura is equipped with surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, anti-submarine rockets, a medium-range gun and close-in gun system. It also has a 400km-range radar.
The ship normally operates as a multi-role stealth frigate designed to be an impregnable shield against the enemy. It carries two multi-role helicopters.
There was also a trip to the bridge, where around 40 staff work, and the operations room. The corridors are decorated with small signs bearing phrases to try to boost morale, such as: “Our shipmates’ smiles make our ship go miles.” This message can be seen as the leitmotiv of the INS Satpura and INS Shakti, whose crew play a part in building friendship between nations.