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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Maldives allows Chinese ship to dock, but says no to conducting any research while there

The Maldivian foreign ministry statement came after international reports that the Xiang Yang Hong 3 was coming to carry out extensive research in the Indian Ocean region. It clarified that the ship would make the port call for, “rotation of personnel and replenishment"

Paran Balakrishnan Published 24.01.24, 12:35 PM
Representational image.

Representational image. Shutterstock

The Chinese research ship the Xiang Yang Hong 3 will dock in the Maldives but will not carry out any research in Maldivian waters, the country’s foreign ministry has said.

In a three-paragraph statement, the Maldives government said China had requested, “the necessary clearances to make a port call” but added that: “The vessel would not be conducting any research while in Maldivian waters.”

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The Maldivian foreign ministry statement came after international reports that the Xiang Yang Hong 3 was coming to carry out extensive research in the Indian Ocean region. The Maldives statement clarified that the ship would make the port call for, “rotation of personnel and replenishment.”

However, it’s still not clear how long the ship would stay in the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea area and what research it carries out. Sri Lanka announced on January 1 that it would not allow Chinese research vessels like the Xiang Yang Hong 3 to dock at its port through 2024. Earlier indications were that the ship planned to stay in the Indian Ocean region for around four months.

The new Maldives government which was elected late last year has tilted strongly towards China and away from India. A Chinese foreign ministry vice minister, Sun Haiyan, was in the Maldives for a two-day visit that ended yesterday. Her visit came hard on the heels of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s five-day visit to China during which he received red carpet treatment and held a meeting with China’s powerful leader Xi Jinping.

Muizzu made his first foreign visit to Turkey and then went to China. Traditionally, Maldivian leaders have always made their first visit to India but Muizzu has pointedly not done that. He has also not received an invitation from India.

The Maldivian foreign ministry stressed in its message that the country had always welcomed both civilian and military vessels “for peaceful purposes”.

India has been very concerned about the increasing number of Chinese research ships that have been making prolonged stays in the Indian Ocean area. Last October, another ship, the Shi Yan 6 had docked in Colombo and carried out research for two days on Sri Lanka’s west coast. The Sri Lankans are thought to have shortened its stay after pressure from the Indian government.

Another Chinese research ship, the Yuan Wang 5, docked in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port in August 2022. These ships are thought to be mapping the seabed and also keeping an eye on Indian naval activity.

Such activities are part of what international analysts term China’s two-ocean strategy.

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