After Chinese Research Survey Vessel Shi Yan 6 completed its survey off the coast of Sri Lanka and reached Singapore on December 2, Beijing has asked permission from Colombo and Male to allow another Research Survey Vessel to dock at their ports and conduct a deepwater exploration of South Indian Ocean from January 5 till late May, 2024.
While India has already raised objections with both Sri Lanka and Maldives and asked them not to allow the Chinese vessel to conduct exploration of Indian Ocean for future military operations, the vessel Xiang Yang Hong 03 is currently off the coast of Xiamen in South China Sea and will travel via Malacca to these countries after securing permission.
Made in 20126, Xiang Yang Hong 03 is a 4813-ton vessel equipped with latest survey and surveillance equipment and is registered at the port of Xiamen.
The previous survey vessel, Shi Yan 6, which was allowed permission by Ranil Wickremesinghe government despite India’s strong objections exited Malacca Straits on November 20- after conducting exploration of Sri Lankan EEZ and South Indian Ocean.
The ship was also seen 500 nautical miles off Chennai before it entered Colombo port on October 25, 2023.
The Indian concerns over Chinese ballistic missile trackers and Research Surveillance Ships being allowed by Sri Lanka and now with a pro-China government in Maldives are over Beijing using these vessels to spy on India in the name of marine exploration.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue with visiting President Ranil Wickremesinghe on July 21, 2023 that Sri Lanka should respect strategic concerns of India.
With the PLA Navy rapidly acquiring maritime assets including three aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and guided missile destroyers, China is expanding its footprint all over the Indian Ocean with a string of naval bases from Cambodia to Djibouti on the mouth of the Red Sea.
China has already acquired/invested in ports in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran and in UAE with an eye towards future naval operations.
In the name of marine exploration, Beijing is actually mapping the Indian Ocean bed from the ninety-degree ridge south of Andamans and Nicobar Islands to the deep South Indian Ocean.
Detailed ocean bed maps are prepared for future submarine operations all the way up to the coast of Africa.
With the PLA already operating off the coast of Africa and the Gulf of Aden in the name of anti-piracy operations, it is only a matter of time that Chinese carrier strike forces will be patrolling in international waters of the Indian Ocean.
Last month, the Chinese Navy conducted an exercise with the Pakistan Navy off the Makran Coast with a PLA Song class diesel hunter-killer submarine participating in specialized “sea bottoming” operations along with client state Pakistan.