Geostrategist Brahma Chellaney expressed concerns on Wednesday regarding the Maldives’ decision to allow a Chinese research vessel to dock in Malé port. The Xiang Yang Hong 03, which arrived on Tuesday, has sparked debate in India due to its possible role in China’s oceanographic surveys in the Indian Ocean.
Chellaney, a prominent author and geostrategist, highlighted China’s ongoing efforts to map the Indian Ocean seabed, citing potential implications for India’s maritime security. He stated on X (formerly Twitter): “China is aggressively engaged in mapping the Indian Ocean bed and collecting seismic and bathymetric data to facilitate submarine operations in India’s maritime backyard.”
The Maldivian Foreign Ministry clarified that the Xiang Yang Hong 03’s visit is solely for crew rotation and replenishment purposes. They emphasized that the vessel will not conduct any research within Maldivian waters. However, Chellaney questioned the feasibility of effectively monitoring such activities, stating: “The Muizzu government claim that the PLA-linked ship would not conduct oceanographic research in the Maldivian waters is laughable as the Maldives has zero capability to detect such activity.”
The incident comes amidst a period of strain between India and the Maldives. In 2019, the Maldives terminated a hydrographic surveying agreement with India and expelled several non-combat Indian military personnel involved in disaster relief efforts. This latest development has further raised concerns about the shifting geopolitical landscape in the Indian Ocean region.
While the Maldivian government remains firm in its stance, questions linger about the true nature of the research vessel’s visit and its potential impact on India’s security interests. The situation warrants further monitoring and careful diplomatic engagement to ensure regional stability and maintain the vital maritime trade routes in the Indian Ocean.