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When India’s gunboat fleet was ‘gunboat diplomacy’

When India’s gunboat fleet was ‘gunboat diplomacy’

When India launched its ‘gunship diplomacy’ to help China solve its maritime disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines, it was hailed as a bold move that would make China less dependent on the US and would bring India closer to its strategic allies.

But India’s foreign minister is now saying the US-led gunboat diplomatic program may have backfired, and may even be costing lives.

The Indian government has also raised doubts about whether the gunboat program could even work, after it was revealed that the first Indian gunboat launched in the Indian Navy was actually a US Navy ship.

The gunboat was tasked with a mission to provide maritime security to Chinese ships in the East China Sea and the Indian coast guard has since accused China of deliberately using its own ships to shoot at Chinese ships. 

Indian media reports said India had commissioned the first gunboat in its navy to be equipped with anti-ship missiles in 2017, after the United States and China signed a deal in 2017 to jointly build anti-submarine warfare ships.

However, the Indian defence ministry did not provide a breakdown of how many of the gunships were built, nor how many were actually deployed. 

The ministry’s statement also did not specify which of the nine gunboats India has commissioned has been the target of anti-Chinese attacks, or how many gunships it has. 

“The gunships being deployed in the Indo-Pacific are of different types.

There are two types of anti ship weapons being used against Chinese ships: anti-surface vessels and anti-aircraft missiles,” said the defence ministry.

The ministry said in the past two years, India has received 1,091 anti-sea, anti-land, anti air and anti surface warfare missions from its gunboats, of which 1,638 were of the type being deployed to China. 

In its defence statement, the ministry said the Chinese navy is increasingly using Chinese warships to conduct maritime surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the sea, as well as to conduct operations in the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas. 

China has claimed all of the South China Sea, which is claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Maldives. 

India is also believed to be deploying gunships to the South-East Asian region of the Indian Ocean in a bid to bolster its naval presence there.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this report. 

(Read more: ‘I was a spy, a spy for India’: Vietnam says it was not spying on India)India’s defence ministry’s latest statement came a day after a Chinese court ruled that a Vietnam military ship could not be returned to India after it crossed the disputed South China sea.

A court in Vietnam’s southern port city of Da Nang said the Vietnamese Navy’s helicopter crashed near the Chinese vessel on March 23, and the Chinese ship’s crew were detained.

The Vietnamese government said the crew were not Vietnamese.

In a statement, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said it was “deeply disappointed” by the court’s decision, and that it “will not tolerate any hostile acts against Vietnam”.

“We are committed to working with all countries to resolve the maritime disputes and to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed,” it said.

(Watch: China says Vietnamese ship was not carrying military equipment)India is a close ally of Vietnam, and has deployed a number of warships in the region in recent years.

Last year, India announced plans to build two more warships in Vietnam to protect the country’s maritime interests in the South Sea.

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