Tue, 05 Feb 2013 07:44:27 GMT

INS Sudershini building bridges across ASEAN

From Gurdip Singh
Singapore, Feb 4 (PTI) INS Sudarshini, the sail training ship of the Indian navy, currently on a 6-month-long friendly visit to South East Asian countries as a part of India''s ''Look East'' policy has generated tremendous interest among foreigners and Indian nationals abroad.

On the last leg of its expedition to commemorate India''s 20 years of dialogue partnership and 10 years of summit-level partnership with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ship has been to Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore till now.

Sudarshini''s next stops will be ports in Malaysia and Myanmar. Landlocked Laos is the only ASEAN country not being covered.

A large number of foreigners, including students, have visited INS Sudarshini, the sail training ship of the Indian navy, that has been visiting major ports in ASEAN countries in an effort to ''Build Bridges across the Oceans''.

Many Indian nationals living and working in the region have also visited the ship.

"When in Sihanoukville, scores of Indians based in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh came by bus loads to visit the ship," Commander N Shyam Sundar told PTI.

"The Indians also played a cricket-match with us in Sihanoukville," he said.

Sudarshini naval officers also have an exchange programme during the port call in each of the ASEAN ports for sailing experiences, learning about a wide range of marine issues in the region and understanding the challenges of sailing through rough weathers of the South China Sea and Sulu Sea.

Sudarshini left Kochi on September 15, 2012 in her endeavour to ''Build Bridges across the Oceans'' and would return home on March 29, 2013, completing a six-month voyage along the route of the monsoon trade which seafarers used centuries ago to build trading and religious links with Southeast Asia.

In the 127 days of sailing, the ship would have covered 12,607 nautical miles and visited 13 ports in nine countries.

Along with training Indian naval cadets on basic mariner skills, the ship and its naval crew was also training two naval cadets from each of the nine-ASEAN member countries it is making port calls, building camaraderie, team spirit and strengthening naval ties.

Over 1,500 students and diplomats as well as Singaporeans from all walks of life have visited the ship in Singapore which docked on January 29 and will sail out on February 13 after undergoing scheduled maintenance.

Built and commissioned last year, Sudarshini is the second sail training ship after the INS Tarangini, which was commissioned in 1997 and has since made several voyages around the world.

"There are only 27 to 28 main navies in the world to have such ships to provide basic marine training," Commander Sundar said.

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