Amid strained ties between India and the Maldives, a Chinese vessel has entered the waters of the island nation and is set to dock in its capital Male. The 4,300-ton Xiang Yang Hong 03 is classified as a ‘research’ vessel mapping the floor of Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy has pointed out that mapping of the seabed can enable submarine operations in the geopolitically-significant Indian Ocean Region.

The vessel belongs to the Third Institute of Oceanography in China. Its purported objectives are seabed mapping and mineral exploration, among others. The vessel sailed from Sanya in China over a month ago and is likely to dock in Male shortly.

The Maldives last month said the Chinese ship will not conduct any research in its waters but will only come for “rotation and replenishment”. India’s concerns, however, are not limited to the waters of the Maldives. They extend to the other areas this vessel is operating on. This ship has been operating in the waters between the Maldives and Sri Lanka in a zigzag manner.

New Delhi is watching the ship’s movements with concerns against the backdrop of China’s expanding influence in the Indian Ocean Region and the frost in India-Maldives relations.

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