Rare Bonhomie! Indian Navy Uses US-Origin P-8 Poseidon To Help Chinese PLA Navy Trace Sunken Vessel

By Neeraj Rajput

There are few occasions when the navies of India and China cooperate on the high seas. On 17 May, Indian Navy’s US-origin reconnaissance aircraft P8I Poseidon helped in the search and rescue (SAR) of a sunken Chinese fishing vessel in the Southern Indian Ocean Region at the request of the Chinese PLA Navy.

“In a swift humanitarian action on 17 May, Indian Navy deployed its Air Maritime Reconnaissance assets in the Southern Indian Ocean Region approximately 900 Nm from India, in response to sinking of a Chinese Fishing Vessel Lu Peng Yuan Yu 028 with 39 crew onboard”, said Commander Vivek Madhwal, Spokesperson of the Indian Navy. All 39 crew of the Chinese vessel are reportedly missing since then.

P8I aircraft carried out multiple and extensive searches despite adverse weather and located multiple objects possibly belonging to the sunken vessel, Commander Madhwal added.

The crew of the Lu Peng Yuan Yu vessel included nationals from China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. As an immediate response, search & rescue equipment was deployed at the scene by the Indian aircraft (P8I) at the request of PLA (N) ships closing the area, Indian Navy’s Spokesperson said.

Chinese fishing vessel was about 267 nm from the strategically important Diego Gracia base of the UK and US armed forces in Southern IOR. The accident site of the Chinese vessel was south of the Maldives and about 900nm from the Indian coast.

“In a display of India’s obligations as a credible and responsible partner for ensuring safety at sea, the Indian Navy units also coordinated SAR efforts with other units in the area and guided the PLA(N) warships transiting to the scene of the incident,” Indian Navy tweeted from its official Twitter account along with a file picture of P8I and area-map of the SAR site.

“The Indian Navy continues to remain deployed to provide all possible assistance to the ongoing SAR efforts,” said an Indian Navy official posted in South Block (Delhi), which houses the Ministry of Defence and Navy Headquarters.

This is for the first time that the navies of India and China have cooperated on the high seas after the Galwan Valley clash of 2020 in Eastern Ladakh.

Both Indian and Chinese navies had carried out joint anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden in 2017, but that was a time when relations between the two Asian rivals were not ‘abnormal.’

While the Chinese PLA (Navy) is widening its footprints in the Indian Ocean region, the Indian Navy is ready to counter Dragon’s influence in the neighborhood. The Chinese PLA (Navy) generally has 3-7 ships at a time in the Indian Ocean region, and the Indian Navy continues to keep them under surveillance as soon as they enter India’s maritime domain.

India’s P8I (nicknamed ‘Hunters’) have often tracked down PLA’s submarines, though never officially admitted by either navy.

US Navy P-8 Poseidon
File Image: US Navy P-8 Poseidon

P8I aircraft were procured by the Indian Navy from US company Boeing in 2013 and, on the 10th anniversary, i.e., 15 May, completed 40 thousand hours of operations. The Indian Navy presently has eight P8Is deployed in INAS 312 Squadron at INS Rajali naval air base of Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.

The first P8I landed at INS Rajali on 15 May 13 with Capt H S Jhajj as the first Commanding Officer. INAS 312, popularly known as ‘Albatross,’ has been at the forefront of all Naval Operations since then, a senior officer of the Indian Navy said on completion of a decade of diverse naval operations.

P8I, over the last ten years, spearheaded operations in all three dimensions – air, surface & subsurface. The Squadron has been rendering yeoman service, safeguarding national interests being the first responder in IOR, just like on 17 May when it helped in locating the debris of the Chinese fishing vessel, which was 900 nm from India’s southernmost tip of Cape Comorin in Tamil Nadu.

[Note: Story will be updated if any information about the vessel and the crew members comes from Chinese PLA (Navy) or other authorities.]

  • Neeraj Rajput is a Senior War-journalist with more than two decades of multimedia experience in defense, conflict, security, strategic affairs & geopolitics.
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