A Chinese research ship caught operating without permission in waters controlled by India in September was expelled by the Indian Navy, local media reported on Wednesday.
The Shiyan-1, or Experiment 1, which is owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was found carrying out research activities near Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are administered by New Delhi, the ANI news agency reported.
A maritime surveillance aircraft spotted the ship inside the islands’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – an area extending 200 nautical miles off its coastline – and a warship was dispatched to drive it away, the report said.
India’s naval chief Admiral Karambir Singh was quoted as saying at a press conference on Tuesday that the Chinese vessel had entered the area without receiving clearance to do so.
“Our stand has been that if you do anything in our region, you have to notify us or get our permission,” he said.
China has greatly increased its presence in the Indian Ocean in recent years causing much concern in Delhi.
At any time, seven or eight Chinese ships could be found in the region, Singh said.
After being warned by the warship, Shiyan-1 retreated outside the EEZ, the report said.
Because of their strategic location – close to Myanmar and between the Bay of Bengal and the Malacca Strait, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide a base for Delhi to monitor activity in the Indian Ocean and across Southeast Asia. The military reacted swiftly to the presence of the Chinese vessel as it was possible it might have been spying, the report said.
More than 100,000 vessels a year travel through the Malacca Strait, which connects the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean. About 60 per cent of that traffic is en route to or from China.
Since 2008 the Chinese military has maintained a fleet of vessels in the busy waterway to serve as escorts for commercial vessels against the threat of piracy.
In 2016, China’s Type 093 nuclear-powered submarine was photographed sailing through the strait and in the Indian Ocean.
The 3,000-tonne Shiyan-1 is one of China’s most advanced scientific research ships. Commissioned in 2009, it is capable of carrying up to 45 scientists and is fitted with more than a dozen laboratories, according to the academy’s own description.
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