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Indian Coast Guard ship docks at Manila port amid tensions in South China Sea

Manila: Amid tensions in the South China Sea, the Indian Coast Guard ship, Samudra Paheredar docked at the Manila Bay in the Philippines as part of a broader initiative aimed at demonstrating ICG Marine Pollution Response capabilities, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in an official release on Tuesday.
The ICG ship which arrived at the port on Monday, is on an overseas deployment to ASEAN countries namely the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei from 25 March to 12 April 2024 and is the third in a row by the Indian Coast Guard to ASEAN countries. Earlier in the year 2023, ICG Pollution Control Vessels visited Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia as part of the initiative.
During its deployment, the ship is scheduled to make port calls in Manila (Philippines), Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), and Muara (Brunei).
"Indian Coast Guard ship Samudra Paheredar, a specialized Pollution Control Vessel, arrived at Manila Bay, Philippines on 25 March 2024 on a three-day visit. The visit of specialized Pollution Control Vessels is part of a broader initiative aimed at demonstration of ICG Marine Pollution Response capabilities and shared concern & resolve towards Marine Pollution in the ASEAN region, besides bolstering bilateral cooperation with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)," Ministry said in a release.
"The ICG ship is on an overseas deployment to ASEAN countries namely the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei from 25 March to 12 April 2024. The deployment is the third in a row by the Indian Coast Guard to ASEAN countries. Earlier in the year 2023, ICG Pollution Control Vessels visited Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia as part of the initiative," it added.
The ICG Samudra Paheredar ship is equipped with specialized marine pollution control equipment and a Chetak Helicopter in Pollution Response configuration, designed to contain, and recover spilled oil and augment the operation. The demonstration at visiting ports includes Pollution Response training and a practical display of various equipment.
The deployment came even as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is on an official visit to Philippines and is holding series of meeting with prominent leaders in Manila.
Additionally, the ship has also embarked 25 National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets to participate in the Government's initiative "Puneet Sagar Abhiyan," and provide it an international outreach in coordination with partner nations. As part of an overseas exchange program, the NCC cadets, in coordination with ICG ship crew, Partner agencies personnel, Indian Embassy/ Mission staff, and local youth organizations will undertake beach cleanup and similar activities during the port call of the ship, ministry said.
According to the release, "This visit holds significant importance in strengthening bilateral relationships with key maritime agencies, including the Philippine Coast Guard, Vietnam Coast Guard, and Brunei Maritime agencies. ICG has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) towards Enhanced Maritime Cooperation and Maritime Safety and Security with the Coast Guards of the Philippines and Vietnam. These relationships have evolved over the years to ensure the safety, security, and marine environment concerns in the region."
"The visit's agenda includes professional exchanges, cross-deck visits, joint exercises, as well as official and social engagements including visits to capacity-building facilities," it added.
ICGS Samudra Paheredar, stationed on the East Coast of India in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, is under the Command of Deputy Inspector General Sudhir Ravindran. Over the years, Samudra Paheredar has successfully undertaken various Coast Guard operations, including Pollution Response, IMBL/EEZ surveillance, counter-transnational crimes, and Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR).
Meanwhile, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, in a statement said that Manila conveyed its "strong protest against the aggressive actions" undertaken by China's Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militias against the Philippine mission near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
The department said it has also instructed its mission in Beijing to lodge a formal complaint over the incident. The move comes a day after Philippines' National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano said the confrontation that injured three Filipino soldiers caused severe damage to the Unaizah May 4 vessel.
Jaishankar arrived in Manila after paying an official visit to Singapore and will visit Malaysia after the Philippines.
Jaishankar is on an official visit to these countries at the invitation of his counterparts, according to an official release of the Ministry of External Affairs.
The visit of the EAM spanning five days from March 23-27 will focus on enhancing bilateral relations with the three countries and will provide an opportunity for engagement on regional issues of mutual concern.

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