Updated March 11th, 2024 at 20:17 IST

Chinese research vessel anchored near India's Eastern seaboard amid Agni-5 missile test

As India conducted a successful Agni-5 missile test off the Odisha coast, a Chinese research vessel, Xian Yang Hong 01, anchored near IOR.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Xian Yang Hong 01 | Image:MarineTraffic

Vishakhapatnam: Within days of India issuing an alert for an impending missile test off the Odisha coast, a Chinese research vessel has raced up India's eastern seaboard and is currently anchored in international waters off the Indian coastline. This test - of the Agni-5 intercontinental ballistic missile which has Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology - took place successfully on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed the successful test with a post on X (formerly Twitter). Meanwhile, the Chinese ship, Xian Yang Hong 01, is now less than 260 nautical miles - about 480 kilometres - off the coast of Visakhapatnam. Incidentally, that's where India bases its three nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, arguably the most sensitive weapons systems in India's arsenal.  

Speculations and precautions  

There were reports the missile India was planning was the K-4, a nuclear-capable missile designed to be launched by submarines. Ahead of the test, a NOTAM alert was issued last week. NOTAM, meaning notice to airmen, are alerts issued to designate an area as a no-fly zone. The alert was for the Bay of Bengal area, which was seen as a clear indication India is planning a missile test that may take place anytime between March 11 and 16.

Updated position of Chinese vessel Xiang Yang Hong 01 | Credit- MarineTraffic

China has been monitoring India's activities, including missile tests off the eastern seaboard. Hence, the positioning of Xiang Yang Hong 01, a 4,813-tonne research vessel, and the timing has raised suspicion. NDTV has tracked how the ship has changed its position over the past week before reaching its current location. This vessel entered the Malacca Straits on March 6 and was spotted between the Great Nicobar Island and the Indian peninsula on March 8.  


Geopolitical implications  

The developments off the Indian coast come weeks after another Chinese ship of the same class set off alarm bells in New Delhi. The Xiang Yang Hong 03, which is now off the Sri Lankan cost and is surveying the region, docked in the Maldives last month. This came amid strained ties between New Delhi and Male after Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu asked Indian troops to leave.  


India has played down the strain in ties. Asked about the relations between India and the Maldives, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has said neighbours need each other. "History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that." Before the Chinese vessel docked in Male last month, the Maldives had said it would not conduct any research but would only come for "rotation and replenishment". India's concerns, however, were not limited to the waters of the Maldives. 


Published March 11th, 2024 at 20:17 IST