A Chinese research vessel is entering the Indian ocean and is on its way to the Maldives, reports claimed on Monday amid the worsening ties between Male and New Delhi.
The development is likely to raise concerns in India which has previously viewed the presence of such ships close to its shores as problematic.
"Xiang Yang Hong 03 is entering the Indian Ocean Region, displaying its destination as Male, the vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region raising concern in India," open source intelligence researcher Damien Symon wrote on X.
XIANG YANG HONG 03 a Chinese ocean research vessel is entering the Indian Ocean Region, displaying its destination as Male, the vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region raising concern in #India pic.twitter.com/y8v1r3ONZe— Damien Symon (@detresfa_) January 22, 2024
An Indian military official confirmed Symons finding and said they are monitoring its movement, reported Reuters. The Maldivian president’s office, India’s foreign ministry and China’s defence ministry did not respond to requests for comment, it said.
Reuters quoted an Indian security official as saying that China could use the information gathered by these vessels for both civilian and military purposes, including the deployment of submarines.
Sri Lanka, which has denied permission for such vessels to dock on its ports since 2022 after India raised security concerns. In 2019, India had expelled a Chinese research vessel from its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) after it entered without permission.
Relations between India and Maldives have hit a new low ever since Muizzu took office in November riding an 'India Out' campaign.
Male has asked New Delhi to withdraw its nearly 80 military personnel stationed in the island country by March 15.