After Sri Lanka bars entry of research vessels, Chinese ships ‘heading’ to Maldives

India has raised concern over the steady rise in the deployment of Chinese research vessels in the Indian Ocean Region; development comes amid ongoing friction between India and Maldives over stationing of Indian troops

January 22, 2024 08:02 pm | Updated 08:38 pm IST - NEW DELHI/ COLOMBO

“Xiang Yang Hong 03 a Chinese ocean research vessel is entering the Indian Ocean Region [IOR], displaying its destination as Male, the vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region raising concern in India,” OSINT handle @detresfa posted on social media platform ‘X’

“Xiang Yang Hong 03 a Chinese ocean research vessel is entering the Indian Ocean Region [IOR], displaying its destination as Male, the vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region raising concern in India,” OSINT handle @detresfa posted on social media platform ‘X’

Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 03 is entering the Indian Ocean and headed to Maldives, according to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) observers and maritime tracking portals. Official sources acknowledged the development but did not comment on it. The destination — Male — is noteworthy given the moratorium on foreign research vessels by Sri Lanka and the ongoing friction between India and Maldives over Indian troops stationed there.

“Xiang Yang Hong 03 a Chinese ocean research vessel is entering the Indian Ocean Region [IOR], displaying its destination as Male, the vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region raising concern in India,” OSINT handle @detresfa posted on social media platform ‘X’, adding the vessel coordinates.

  

“This is routine movement”, one Indian official source said without commenting further.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, there has been steady rise in the deployment of Chinese research vessels in the IOR and the general area of deployment has been observed around the Ninety Degree East Ridge and Southwest Indian Ridge. The research or survey vessels have powerful equipment for snooping and gathering a range of data.

Amid repeated messages from New Delhi, Colombo in December 2023 announced a year-long moratorium on foreign research vessels visiting Sri Lankan waters. Xiang Yang Hong 03, which was scheduled to call at a Sri Lankan port this year, is now reportedly heading to the Maldives.

  

The development comes after India and the U.S., over the last couple of years, voiced concern with Sri Lankan authorities over the visits of Chinese vessels to the island’s ports for research purposes.

Reports of the Chinese vessel’s arrival in Maldives later this month coincide with the visit of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Vice-Minister of the International Department to the Maldives. The CCP’s Sun Haiyan called on President Mohamed Muizzu on Monday, less than a fortnight after the Maldivian leader’s return from China, after a five-day state visit during which he agreed to “elevate” strategic ties with the Maldives. It comes even as his government consistently demands that Indian troops be withdrawn from the Maldives. On his return from Beijing, Mr. Muizzu announced a March 15 deadline for the removal of Indian soldiers, while New Delhi has said discussion on the matter is “ongoing”.

The development also comes days after the Foreign Ministers of India and Maldives met in Uganda, on the sidelines of the Non-Alignment Movement [NAM] summit. Following the meeting, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on ‘X’ that he held a “frank conversation” with his Maldivian counterpart Moosa Zameer, who said, “We exchanged views on the ongoing high-level discussions on the withdrawal of Indian military personnel.” The Hindu has requested the Maldivian Foreign Ministry for a comment on the Chinese vessel’s reported visit, and is yet to receive a response.

  

In April 2023, an Indian Navy representative informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence that in just over a decade, China has grown from having 250 to more than 350 navy ships becoming the largest navy in the world. Along with their numbers, their operations have also expanded and at any point of time, five to nine ships are operating in the IOR in addition to their research vessels, which can influence our security, the representative informed.

While research activities are allowed in international waters as per international regulations, the data generated have dual nature including military and many times the motive of Chinese vessels had seemed doubtful, on occasion coinciding with the test firing of long range missiles by India.

Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean began in 2008 under the garb of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the country has since maintained continuous presence in the region, even deploying nuclear attack submarines (SSNs) on occasion.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.