Chinese Research Ship Docks Near Maldives Following Month-Long Indian Ocean Expedition

Reports say that on Thursday, a high-tech Chinese marine study ship got close to the Maldives after being in the Indian Ocean near the island nation for about a month.

The ‘Xiang Yang Hong 03′ ship got to the Maldives on the same day that coast guard ships from India and Sri Lanka also got there for a trilateral naval drill.

India was already worried about the Chinese research ship’s movements in the Indian Ocean. They also got Sri Lanka to say no to letting the ship stop at the Colombo port.

“This morning, the Chinese research ship Xiang Yang Hong 03 was docked close to Male City.” The ship was seen to be near Thilafushi around noon, according to the news site, which cited the Marine Traffic website that keeps track of all ocean lines around the world.

“Xiang Yang Hong 03 set out on its trip on January 14, 24 hours after President Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives ended his state visit to China. “A news website called said it got close to Male’ today after being near the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for about a month.”

It also said that the ship was “not visible on common tracking sites from January 22 onwards.” The ship’s tracking tools may have been turned off when it was in the Java Sea, off the coast of Indonesia. The report said that Adhadhu used satellite AIS tracking to find out that the Chinese ship was later at the EEZ of the Maldives. It also said that the ship had been near the EEZ for about a month.

Many people see Muizzu as a leader who supports China, but he won the presidential race last year by being “anti-India.” As Maldivian President, it is customary for the first person to visit New Delhi. But he went contrary and made Beijing his first stop.

An American think tank said that China’s large fleet of “scientific research” ships is gathering information from the oceans, including in the Indian Ocean Region, for military purposes, especially for submarine operations. Beijing denied the claim, saying that the activities of the Chinese ships are legal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

The Maldives government let the study ship go on January 23. But while the Maldivian foreign ministry said the Chinese study Vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 would “not be conducting any research while in the Maldivian waters,” Indian defense officials said that New Delhi was closely monitoring the ship’s movements.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said in February, “China’s scientific research activities in relevant waters are for peaceful purposes and aim to contribute to humanity’s scientific understanding of the ocean.” Earlier on January 5, Sri Lanka told the Chinese ship it couldn’t come in because it had banned all foreign research ships from entering its ports for a year because India was worried about Chinese research ships docking nearby.

The Maldives are very strategically important because they are close to India—only 70 nautical miles from the island of Minicoy in Lakshadweep and 300 nautical miles from the western coast of the Indian mainland. They are also at the center of major trade routes that run through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India’s closest marine neighbor in the Indian Ocean Region is the Maldives. It plays a key role in India’s policies like SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the Neighbourhood First Policy of the Narendra Modi government.

However, on Thursday morning, the Coast Guards of the Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, along with monitors from Bangladesh, took part in the Trilateral Joint Exercise “DOSTI-16.”

“MNDF welcomes ships from India and Sri Lanka to take part in the Trilateral Joint Exercise ‘DOSTI-16’ from February 22nd to February 25th.” The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) posted pictures of the two ships on X and said, “Every two years, the Coast Guards of the Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka, as well as observers from Bangladesh, take part in this event to improve cooperation between the forces.”, a news website, said that the exercise’s goal is to improve military cooperation between the three countries and find new ways for them to work together in case of an emergency at sea.

The first DOSTI drill took place between the Maldives and India in 1991. Sri Lanka took part in the drill for the first time in 2012. The site said that the last work out was in 2021.

When the Indian coastguard ship went to the Maldives, President Muizzu asked the 88 Indian soldiers who were working on three Indian aviation bases in the island nation to leave by March 15.

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