Celebrating 20 years of India's ties with ASEAN, Defence Minister A.K. Antony will Saturday flag off a historic six-month long voyage by the Indian Navy's sail training ship INS Sudarshini to nine countries in southeast Asia.
The ship will set sail from the naval base at Kochi and will visit 13 ports in the nine countries. After flagging off INS Sudarshini, Antony will head to the Maldives on a three-day visit.
A unique initiative of the external affairs and defence ministries, the voyage commemorates 20 years of India's dialogue partnership and 10 years of summit-level partnership with countries of ASEAN. New Delhi will host the first special India-ASEAN summit Dec 20-21 at which leaders of the 10 ASEAN countries are expected to come to India.
The ship will visit the ports of Padang, Bali, Manado (Indonesia), Port Muara (Brunei), Cebu, Manila (the Philippines), Da Nang (Vietnam), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Bangkok (Thailand), Singapore, Port Klang (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand), and Sittwe (Myanmar). It is scheduled return to Kochi March 29, 2013.
The idea is to boost India's naval ties with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with which the country enjoys multi-faceted relations, said defence ministry officials.
A magnificent three-masted barque, INS Sudarshini is part of the First Training squadron of the Southern Naval Command and is commanded by Commander N.Shyamsunder. She has a crew of 31 besides 30 cadets who will learn the ropes of life at sea during the voyage.
In a step to cement navy-to-navy bonds, trainees from ASEAN countries will also join the cadets at different legs of the voyage.