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CREDIT Damien Symon @detresfa_

The Chinese oceanographic research vessel, XIANG YANG HONG 03, has docked in Male, Maldives for the second time this year, raising eyebrows in the region. This follows the completion of another survey mission in the Indian Ocean, according to sources.

The XIANG YANG HONG 03 previously called at Male in February 2024. While officially for crew rotation and resupply, the vessel’s activities have been met with suspicion, particularly due to its past operations near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands without broadcasting its position.

Experts believe the XIANG YANG HONG 03’s surveys might be aimed at collecting valuable underwater data beyond territorial waters. This data could include details on ocean currents, water properties, and potentially even seabed mapping. This information could have military applications, such as aiding submarines in navigating undetected.

The Maldives’ decision to grant the XIANG YANG HONG 03 access to its port has drawn criticism from some quarters, particularly neighboring India. India has long maintained close ties with the Maldives and may view China’s growing influence in the region with concern.