China renames five seabed features in Indian Ocean Region | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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China renames five seabed features in Indian Ocean Region

By, Beijing
Apr 12, 2023 12:08 AM IST

China's navy has named five seabed features in the Indian Ocean region after Chinese musical instruments, taking the total number of names it has given to undersea topographies in the maritime area to nine. The move is seen as an example of China's "soft power". While China has earlier declared renaming undersea features in other maritime regions, it is the first time that the Chinese navy has made public that it has done so in the Indian Ocean region. The Indian navy will be closely monitoring the PLA navy's latest move.

The People’s Liberation Army’s navy (PLAN) in late March named five seabed features in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) after Chinese musical instruments, taking the total number of names it has given to undersea topographies in the maritime area to nine, in a move, which, according to a PLA officer, is an example of the country’s “soft power”.

India and China have been engaged in a tussle in the Ladakh sector. (Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)
India and China have been engaged in a tussle in the Ladakh sector. (Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

The new names given by PLAN have been included in a database maintained in an international register.

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While China has earlier declared renaming undersea features in other maritime regions, it is the first time that the Chinese navy has made public that it has done so in the IOR.

“The PLA Navy has completed work on naming five seabed places in the international waters of the Indian Ocean, making a total of nine seabed place names in the international waters of the Indian Ocean,” national broadcaster CCTV’s military channel reported late March.

“Huapengu (Flowerpot drum) sea knoll, Tang drum sea knoll, fishing drum sea knoll, waist drum seamount… are all names given by the information centre of the (PLA’s) Naval Staff Department to submarine geographical entities in the international waters of the Indian Ocean,” the report added.

A seamount is a large underwater volcanic mountain while sea knolls are smaller volcanic mountains.

“Although the correlation between oceanic seabed place names and sovereignty ownership is not very strong, it reflects our national soft power,” Xu Jinde, an engineer at PLAN’s Navy Staff Department of Information, told CCTV.

The state media article did not share the precise locations of the seabed features. It’s also not known where the remaining four features are.

“…these submarine names with elements of China’s unique musical instruments have been included in the international database of undersea names.”

The latest move by the PLA navy – the largest in the world – will be closely tracked by the Indian navy, which has had to monitor and track the increasing presence of Chinese vessels including submarines and large, tech-heavy survey ships in the region.

”Also, it has a very important role in marine scientific research, engineering exploration, scientific research and so on,” engineer Xu said.

At present, China has 238 undersea place names included in the international list of undersea names.

“This year, the PLA Navy will use traditional Chinese colours for (more) undersea place names, and if the proposals are approved, ancient Chinese names such as Plum Dye, Rouge and Moon White will be forever marked in the Western Indian Ocean waters,” Xu said.

PLAN has been actively involved in the naming of seabed features in international waters since 2014, “…using Chinese national totems, words and phrases from the poetic scriptures and the Chinese lunar calendar months as special names for geographic entities on the seabed, highlighting the profound heritage and distinctive characteristics of Chinese culture.”

At present, the Naval Staff Department’s information centre has 30 names for seabed features, which have been approved by the International Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) as world undersea geographical names, the CCTV article said.

Though the names of seabed features in the IOR are in the international waters, China has a history of naming undersea features in disputed maritime regions like in the South China Sea (SCS).

In 2018, Chinese authorities released standard names for 25 islands and reefs as well as 55 undersea geographic entities in the SCS “…in a move that Chinese experts praised for reaffirming China’s sovereignty in the region”, according to the state-run Global Times tabloid.

At that time, the Chinese ministries of civil affairs and natural resources released the names, longitudes and latitudes of these places.

“After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, related authorities released standardised names of 287 islands in the region in April 1983, a move that Chinese experts said indicated China’s improving precision and regulation of the nomenclature and location of islands and reefs in the SCS,” the tabloid reported.

In April, 2020, China named 80 features in disputed areas of the South China Sea region including 25 islands and reefs, and 55 undersea mountains and ridges.

The PLA has renamed places three times in Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as South Tibet, a move that has been heavily criticised by New Delhi.

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