Fourth Chinese spy vessel around India

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With India planning to test at least one more nuclear ballistic missile in the next two weeks, a new Chinese spy ship has started its movement into the Indian Ocean Region, The Print reports.

Once the Yuan Wang 03, a ship that has the ability to track satellites and ballistic missiles, enters the waters around India, it will be the fourth such vessel in the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese have already deployed the Xiang Yang Hong 01 and Xiang Yang Hong 02, oceanographic survey and research ships along with Da Yang Hao, a marine resource survey vessel.

 

These ships had entered the Indian Ocean in wake of India issuing a Notice to the Airmen, commonly known as NOTAM, earlier this month.

While India was originally supposed to test-fire two nuclear-capable ballistic missiles — the K4 submarine-launched ballistic missile and the land-based Agni-V — between 11 and 16 March, only the former was done.

Now India has issued a fresh NOTAM for 3 and 4 April over the Bay of Bengal. The NOTAM is for 1,600 kilometers which indicate that India is planning the launch of Agni Prime, the next generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile in India’s nuclear arsenal.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said the Indian Navy was closely monitoring the movement of all ships in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Asked if they are aware that three Chinese spy ships are in the IOR and one more was on its way, a source said, “We track all vessels in the IOR including underwater”.

The Chinese activity comes even as Pakistan has also acquired a satellite and missing tracking ship from China, as reported by ThePrint earlier.

This is not the first time a Chinese vessel was seen entering the IOR just before a planned missile test by India. In November 2022, the Yuan Wang 06, a Chinese research vessel capable of tracking missile tests, entered the IOR days before a planned missile test.

In December that year, India issued a NOTAM over the Bay of Bengal, and this saw a Chinese research vessel, the Yuan Wang 05, make a U-turn on its course and head back to the IOR, as reported by ThePrint.

The Chinese ships are also suspected to be operating underwater gliders in the Indian Ocean to map the sea bed.

The information gathered by such exercises include currents, bathymetry, salinity of the water among others, which are critical for submarine warfare.

Such data is civilian-defence agnostic, which means that the information can be used for both civilian and defence purposes.

Citing an internal document prepared by the defence establishment, ThePrint had reported in 2020 the fears India had about what the Chinese were up to in Sri Lankan waters under the garb of carrying out research.

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