Chinese surveillance vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ re-enters Indian Ocean

In August, the docking of ‘Yuan Wang 5’ at Hambantota in Sri Lanka had created a major diplomatic showdown between India and Sri Lanka. File

In August, the docking of ‘Yuan Wang 5’ at Hambantota in Sri Lanka had created a major diplomatic showdown between India and Sri Lanka. File
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Chinese surveillance vessel  ‘Yuan Wang 5’ has re-entered the Indian Ocean in what coincides with a planned Indian long-range missile test, between December 15-16. In a similar incident last month, another vessel ‘Yuan Wang 6’ had entered the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) coinciding with a planned Indian missile launch, but the launch was then deferred.

According to the maritime vessel-tracking portal marinetraffic.com, the ‘Yuan Wang 5’ had entered the IOR through Sunda strait, off Indonesia late evening, on December 4. The vessel was in the IOR last month.

Explained | China’s moves in the Indian Ocean

As per the open-source intelligence handle on Twitter@detresfa, India had issued a notification NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), for a no-fly zone over the Bay of Bengal for a possible missile launch with a window between December 15-16, for a maximum distance of 5400 km. Given the range, it is likely to be the test of the Agni 5 Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile.

While research activities were allowed in international waters as per international regulations, the data generated had a dual nature including military and on many occasions, the motive of the Chinese vessels seemed doubtful, defence officials had stated.

In August, the docking of ‘Yuan Wang 5’ at Hambantota in Sri Lanka had created a major diplomatic showdown between India and Sri Lanka.

Explained | Why is the visit of a Chinese vessel to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port controversial?   

Last week, Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar said that there were a lot of Chinese ships which operated in the region. He added that there were about 4-6 Navy ships, research vessels and fishing vessels apart from 60 odd ships of extra-regional forces, and as a resident power they kept track and ensured that “they do not undertake any inimical activities.”

As reported by The Hindu earlier, there had been a steady rise in the deployment of Chinese research vessels in the IOR, and the general area of deployment observed was around ninety-degree east ridge and southwest Indian ridge. The research or survey vessels have powerful equipment for snooping and gathering a range of data.

The Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean began in 2008 under the garb of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and have since maintained continuous presence in the region, even deploying nuclear attack submarines (SSN), on occasions.

China had since set up a military base in Djibouti and developed several dual-use ports in the IOR in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, among other countries.

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