China is increasing its presence in the Indian Ocean. It isn’t just the warships on anti-piracy missions, but a large number of ships, ostensibly ‘research vessels’ to find out more about the Indian Ocean. Knowledge of depths, salinity and temperatures among other things may have defence applications in the future.
- The Xiang Yang Hong 1, a research vessel, entered the Indian Ocean on October 7. This 5,000 tonnes vessel, was in Colombo in mid-October and is still in the Indian Ocean region.
- The Xiang Yang Hong 3 entered the Indian Ocean on November 3 and was in Colombo, Sri Lanka a week later. In the area earlier, it is carrying an underwater autonomous vehicle called Haiyi or Sea Wings, for deployment whenever necessary.
- The Shiyan 3, an oceanographic research vessel, entered the Indian Ocean through the Sunda Straits in late September and was expected to arrive in Colombo on October 20 to pick up Sri Lankan scientists for joint research work. They would subsequently be dropped off at Hambantota after that. But the joint survey has been cancelled and the Shiyan 3 left, entering the Malacca Straits on November 8.
The Chinese warships– the Guiyang, a guided missile destroyer, the newly commissioned Jiangkai class frigate and the Dongping Hu, a tanker) continue to be in the area. The Guiyang and the Zaozhuang are in the Indian Ocean area for the first time.