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Updated February 23rd, 2024 at 19:00 IST

Chinese Spy Vessel Raises Concerns Amid India-Maldives-Sri Lanka Exercise 'Dosti-16’ in IOR

The 4,300-ton Chinese vessel, was initially scheduled to dock in the Maldives and Sri Lanka for rotation and replenishment purposes.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Amidst trilateral naval exercise DOSTI-16, concerns arise over Chinese vessel's presence.
Amidst trilateral naval exercise DOSTI-16, concerns arise over Chinese vessel's presence. | Image: @HCIMaldives / Marine Traffic
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New Delhi: Amidst an ongoing trilateral joint naval exercise involving India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, concerns have reportedly emerged over the presence of a Chinese research vessel in the region. The exercise, known as Dosti-16, is conducted with the primary aim of enhancing military cooperation between the three nations. However, the appearance of the Chinese vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, has raised eyebrows due to its suspected espionage activities.

The 4,300-ton Chinese vessel, operated by the Third Institute of Oceanography, was initially scheduled to dock in the Maldives and Sri Lanka for rotation and replenishment purposes. However, India too has previously voiced security concerns over the vessel's presence in its strategically vital Indian Ocean Region.

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Chinese vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03. | Image: Marine Traffic

Despite India's objections, the Maldivian government allowed the vessel to enter its waters, stating that it would not engage in research activities during its stay, and the move came following the diplomatic fallout between the Maldives and India post-PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep. Similarly, Sri Lanka imposed a one-year moratorium on the entry of foreign research vessels following India's concerns.

Male Moves Towards Beijing

The ongoing Dosti-16, as per officials, is being held to strengthen cooperation in maritime security and disaster response among the participating coast guards of the three nations. Experts have already warned that the Chinese vessel could be equipped with espionage equipment to study and analyse the movement of the Indian navy and defence apparatus operating or deployed in the region. In addition to concerns about the Chinese vessels, the incident highlighted the broader tensions between India and China, already escalated following Male’s shift towards Beijing.

Maldives Presdient Muizzu(R)along with Chinese Supremo Xi Jingping. | Image: X

Relations between India and the Maldives have soured since President Mohamed Muizzu's election, marked by anti-India sentiments and calls for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country. Despite previous agreements on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, Male has sought to distance itself from New Delhi, opting for closer relations with Beijing. The Maldives' decision not to renew a hydrography agreement with India and President Muizzu's visit to China further substantiate Male’s shift in diplomatic alignment. Additionally, the Maldives' participation in China's Indian Ocean Region Forum and its absence from the Colombo Security Conclave add to it.

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In response to these developments, India has sought to maintain dialogue with the Maldives on defence cooperation and shared security challenges.

India's Dosti to Continue Unimpeded Despite Presence of Chinese Forces

The Dosti-16 exercise is continuing despite concerns over the Chinese vessel's presence. With the objective of increasing maritime interoperability, coast guard personnel from India, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka are engaged in this four-day trilateral exercise in maritime security. 

Indian Coast Guard's Dornier. | Image: X

The exercise involves Indian Coast Guard ships Samarth and Abhinav, along with Sri Lanka Naval Ship Samudura. Additionally, Bangladesh is participating as an observer. The exercise, which commenced on February 22 and will conclude on February 25, also includes the participation of the Indian Coast Guard helicopter along with Dornier aircraft.

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Published February 23rd, 2024 at 18:53 IST

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