Highlights

  • Male confirms Chinese 'spy' vessel's visit
  • A diplomatic request for port call was made by China
  • The ship won't conduct research: Maldives

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Maldives govt confirms Chinese research 'spy' vessel's port call to Male

Maldives said that the Chinese research vessel, which India believes has spying capabilities, won't be conducting survey in the Indian Ocean

Maldives govt confirms Chinese research 'spy' vessel's port call to Male

The Maldivian government on January 23 confirmed that the Chinese research vessel was heading towards the capital Male city. In a press statement, the foreign affairs ministry said that a diplomatic request for a port call was made by the Chinese government.

It also junked media reports that the Xiang Yang Hong 3 ship would be conducting a survey of the Indian Ocean.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to inform that a diplomatic request was made by the Government of China to the Government of Maldives, for the necessary clearances to make a port call, for rotation of personnel and replenishment. The vessel would not be conducting any research while in the Maldivian waters," it said in a statement.

"The Maldives has always been a welcoming destination for vessels of friendly countries, and continues to host both civilian and military vessels making port calls for peaceful purposes..."

"Such port calls not only enhance bilateral ties between the Maldives and partner countries, but also demonstrate the centuries-old tradition of welcoming vessels from friendly countries..."

India has been wary of the Chinese research vessel traversing through the Indian Ocean over its potential spying capabilities. Last month, Sri Lanka announced a year-long moratorium on foreign research vessels visiting the Lankan waters after India raised concerns.

Relations between traditional friends New Delhi and Male have soured since President Muizzu took office in November riding an ‘India Out’ campaign.

Both New Delhi and Beijing vie for influence on the tiny Indian Ocean nation but the new government in Male is pivoting towards China and has asked India to withdraw its nearly 80 troops stationed there.

The Chinese vessel is en-route to Male, open source intelligence researcher Damien Symon wrote on social media platform X, saying Xiang Yang Hong 03 “is entering the Indian Ocean Region, displaying its destination as Male, the vessel is expected to run an ocean survey operation in the Indian Ocean Region raising concern in #India”, reports Reuters news agency.

An Indian military official confirmed Symon’s finding and said they are monitoring its movement.

The Maldivian president’s office, India’s foreign ministry and China’s defence ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

New Delhi has in the past flagged similar visits by other Chinese research vessels with its other littoral neighbour Sri Lanka, which has denied permission for such vessels to dock on its ports since 2022.

In 2019, India expelled another Chinese research vessel from its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) after it entered without permission.

A senior Indian security official told Reuters news agency that China’s research vessels are “dual use” which means the information gathered by them can be used for both civilian and military purposes, including the deployment of submarines.

Both the Indian military and security officials spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak publicly on the subject.

Earlier this month, state-affiliated Chinese media warned against calling its maritime research in the Indian Ocean Region a threat, after an American think tank said China’s navy could “leverage the insights gained from these missions” for deployment of naval forces.

Vietnam and Indonesia have previously claimed that similar Chinese research vessels had entered their EEZ.

Also read: Chinese research vessel heads to 'pro-China' Maldives


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