India calling

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This week, nearly 500 Indian sailors flooded into Saigon during a four-day friendly Port Call.

Sailors in pressed white uniforms could be seen everywhere, on city sidewalks and parks, taking in the town.

In the midst of the visit, the crew took time to welcome members of Saigon society aboard.

On May 10, Rear Admiral HCS Bisht (Flag Officer of the Indian Navy's Eastern Fleet) hosted a dinner reception on the rear deck of the INS Delhi.

Far from the ship's imposing military batteries, Vietnamese military officials, Ho Chi Minh City diplomats and other invited-guests dined on curry and puris under orange striped tents.

The Navy band provided a full-evening of Bhangra, costumed qawwali and Bollyood melodies.

Captain Srikant, a thin, avuncular commanding officer of the INS Dehli worked the deck with rare charm, offering his guests a warm handshake and a glass of Indian rum.

He referred to the piquant beverage as "Indian diplomacy."

And it seemed to work. Guests remained onboard until 10 p.m., after which members of the crew cleared the deck and set out for a night on the town.

The following evening, Cmdr. Vikas Datta, the ship's highest-ranking flight officer, expressed his gratitude after a full day out in town.

"Saigon is warm and welcoming"”a great city with lots of history and a super place to visit," he said. "The hospitality shown to the Indian Navy is much appreciated."

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