Why are there three Chinese spy ships in the Indian Ocean Region? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Why are there three Chinese spy ships in the Indian Ocean Region?

Apr 10, 2024 08:31 AM IST

High endurance Chinese surveillance vessel Xiang Yang Hong 01 is anchored 600 miles west of Andaman Islands (middle of Bay of Bengal) in international water.

New Delhi: After deploying maritime coercion in South China Sea against ASEAN countries, at least three Chinese survey and surveillance vessels are in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as part of PLA Navy’s expansionist objective to launch carrier task force patrols by 2025 through mapping the Indo-Pacific region.

Xiang Yang Hong 01
Xiang Yang Hong 01

As of now, high endurance Chinese surveillance vessel Xiang Yang Hong 01 is anchored 600 miles west of Andaman Islands (middle of Bay of Bengal) in international water conducting trials of high endurance autonomous underwater vehicles, which can stay at the depths of nearly 12 kilometers for three months mapping the ocean bed and collect oceanographic data for future submarine operations. The XYH 01 entered the Bay of Bengal on March 7-8 night and continues to be stationed in the area.

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Another Chinese survey ship Xiang Yang Hong 03 is employing unmanned systems for ocean observation and hydrographic surveying 350 miles of Maldives with the friendly Muizzu regime in power in Male. While the Indian Navy is monitoring the movements of these Chinese vessels in international waters, the main purpose is to validate ocean models for future deployment of naval assets in the IOR like aircraft carriers. The XYH 03 entered the IOR some three months ago and continues to operate outside Maldives.

A third surveillance ship Da Yang Hao is lying 1200 miles south of Port Louis in Mauritius with the 45th PLA anti-piracy escort force operating south west of the Capital at 550 miles. The 46thanti-piracy task force of PLA is operating off the Gulf of Aden albeit there is no news of Chinese vessels intercepting any Somalian pirates or neutralizing any Houthi missiles.

Also read: After Maldives, India supplies onions to neighbour Sri Lanka and ally UAE

As no action can be taken against these vessels operating in international waters, fact is that the PLA is exercising its sea legs for future global naval footprint and courting nations in Indo-Pacific and Africa to influence their maritime policies in the name of defence cooperation. The Chinese Song class submarine was in Karachi harbor in late 2023 and apparently did the ‘bottoming’ operations off the Makran coast.

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Given that India will face maritime coercion from China in the coming years, the Indian Navy will have to acquire unmanned underwater drones and long endurance submarines for deterrence operations. An Indian submarine in equatorial waters can play havoc with the adversary as the difference between the surface ocean temperature and sub-surface temperature is high leading to total internal reflection. This means that the Indian submarine will be seen (if at all) at a ghost location rather than its actual position. It is precisely for this very reason that the Chinese PLA collects ocean temperature, salinity, sound, velocity, sediment characteristics, and sea bottom profile in the IOR.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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