The Chinese Survey and Research Vessel Shi Yan 6, despite being as a research vessel, has sparked apprehension due to its dual purpose. It is not only engaged in maritime surveys but also conducts seabed surveys, with a focus on future operations of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean.
This dual role has raised red flags, particularly for India, which is concerned about the expansion of Chinese naval activities in the Indian Ocean.
Over the past decade, China has been exploring and expanding its naval presence in the Indian Ocean. This expansion is driven by its ambition to secure sea lanes and ensure the safety of its energy and trade routes in the Indo-Pacific region.
China’s string of ports in the Indian Ocean includes the Ream naval base in Cambodia, Kyaukphyu seaport in Myanmar, Coco Island infrastructure development in the Bay of Bengal, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Gwadar in Pakistan, Jask in Iran, Port Khalifa in the UAE, and Djibouti.
This network of ports not only enhances China’s strategic reach but also raises concerns for neighboring countries, particularly India. India views China’s expanding naval presence in the Indian Ocean with concerns.
The proximity of Chinese ports to India’s coastlines and naval bases poses security threats and challenges India’s dominance in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
Of particular concern are the Chinese vessels’ capabilities for surveillance, tracking, and intelligence-gathering.
For example, the visit of the Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship ‘Yuan Wang 5‘ to the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota raised alarms in India.
This military surveillance ship is equipped with the capacity to track intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could be used to monitor Indian missile test firings.
India is wary of the possibility that these tracking systems may attempt to snoop on its defense installations while en route to Sri Lanka.
Another Chinese research vessel, ‘Shi Yan 6’, has started controversy due to its dual-purpose nature. While officially conducting a maritime survey with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), the vessel is also involved in seabed survey activities.
These surveys are seen as groundwork for future operations of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean, including submarine operations.
Sri Lanka finds itself in a difficult situation regarding China’s maritime activities. The island nation owes debt to China, amounting to approximately $7 billion.
In a debt equity swap agreement, Sri Lanka handed over its Hambantota port to China, making it a crucial part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Due to its debt obligations to China, Sri Lanka faces economic pressure and cannot easily deny China access to its ports.
As a result, Sri Lanka’s position often leans in favor of accommodating China’s maritime activities. While facing pressure from India to consider its strategic interests and security concerns, Sri Lanka’s economic dependence on China makes it challenging to reject Chinese vessels’ like Shi Yan 6 docking requests.
The risk of economic repercussions and further debt-related issues is a consideration for the Sri Lankan government.
The United States has also expressed concerns over China’s maritime activities in the Indian Ocean, including its presence in Sri Lanka.
US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland raised concerns about the visit of ‘SHI YAN 6’ during a meeting with Ali Sabry, the foreign minister of Sri Lanka, at the UN General Assembly session.
The US’s involvement adds complexity to the situation and highlights the geopolitical importance of the Indian Ocean region.
Shi Yan 6’s role as a dual-purpose vessel, conducting both maritime and seabed surveys, adds to the complexity of the situation.
While it has been granted permission to conduct a maritime survey in Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone, there are concerns that it could be collecting data for future submarine operations of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean, possibly as early as 2025.
Top Sources Related to China’s Survey Vessel Shi Yan 6 Docks in Colombo, Srilanka (For R&D)
Times of India:
Shiva is a senior editor and publisher. With over six years of experience as a journalist, Reports in various fields. His reporting and writing have covered a wide array of topics, from politics to technology, showing a deep understanding of the ever-evolving media landscape. For inquiries or information on these topics, feel free to contact him at: email@example.com