In a strategic announcement, the Ministry of Defence on Monday said a flotilla of Indian Navy warships was headed for deployment in South China Sea besides countries in South-East Asia and an exercise in the Western Pacific.

China and five other countries are locked in a territorial dispute in the South China sea, India has always spoken about freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The Indian move is clearly aimed at bolstering the ‘Quad’, a grouping of US, Japan, Australia and India.

The two-month overseas deployment starts in the first week of August.

The deployment of the ships seeks to underscore the operational reach peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen existing bonds between India and countries of the Indo-Pacific, the MoD said.

It described this as a “pursuit of India’s ‘Act East’ policy and to enhance military cooperation with friendly countries”. The Indian naval task group comprises Ranvijay, Shivalik, Kadmatt and Kora.

During the deployment in the Indo-Pacific, the ships are scheduled to participate in bilateral exercises with Malaysian navy, Vietnamese navy, Philippines navy, Singapore navy, Indonesian navy and Royal Australian navy.