China has reportedly deployed dozens of underwater drones, apart from the hydrographic survey and research ships. As per a report in The Times of India, the development has put the India Navy on alert. The concern of the security establishment is that while such surveys are undertaken for deep-sea mining and other commercial activities, they are also critical of the submarine and anti-submarine warfare operations.
As per a report in Forbes, China deployed a dozen “Sea Wing” underwater drones from specialist research vessel Xiangyanghong 06 in the Indian Ocean Region during mid-December before recovering them last month. These long-range Sea wing gliders made 3400 observations for the winter survey of the joint ocean and ecology research project that is run by the Chinese ministry of natural resources.
The official sources of Navy said that Navy constantly tracks the presence of Chinese research vessels in the IOR through P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft and warships on mission-based deployments.
An official quoted by the TOI report has clarified that at any given time there are four to five Chinese research vessels who map different parts of IOR. They collect oceanographic data on a daily basis about the physical operating environment like seawater temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll levels that useful for general navigation and submarine operations.
“If any such Chinese vessel enters India’s Exclusive Economic Zone which is 200 nautical miles from the coast and engages in any suspicious militant activity, it is chased away after warning”, said another official. Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh in the month of December had confirmed that the Navy forces had chased away Chinese oceanic research vessel Shi Yan-1 after it was found indulging in suspicious activity near the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
China has been rapidly expanding in the Indian Ocean region with its naval footprint and hunting more logistic bases after establishing its first overseas base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Naval turnaround facilities at Karachi. China has been witnessed sending both nuclear as well as conventional submarines to the region under the guise of Anti-piracy patrols.