New Delhi: The Maldives government has confirmed that a Chinese survey and research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, will arrive in the capital Male in early February. The vessel, which is seen as a spy ship by India, is capable of mapping the Indian Ocean floor for military purposes. The Maldives said the ship would not conduct any research in its waters, but only seek clearance for resupply.
The Maldives also said it welcomes ships from friendly nations, and that such visits enhance bilateral relations and reflect the tradition of hospitality. However, this statement is perceived as a snub to India, which has been tracking the Chinese vessel and has expressed concerns over its activities in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). China’s move is seen as a potentially significant geopolitical and military shift in the region, as it could use the data collected by the vessel to operate submarines and underwater drones in the future.
The arrival of the Chinese ship comes at a time when the relations between the Maldives and India are strained over derogatory remarks made by some Maldivian ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month. The remarks sparked a diplomatic row and led to India summoning the Maldivian envoy and conveying its strong objections. The Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, who is seen as pro-China, also faced criticism in his own country for his handling of the issue.