Chinese ship at Hambantota calls for New Delhi to look closely at its maritime strategy

Source: The post is based on the article “Chinese ship at Hambantota calls for New Delhi to look closely at its maritime strategy” published in the Indian Express on 19th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – India and its Neighbourhood relations.

Relevance: Yuan Wang 5 and China’s evolving Indian Ocean strategy

News: Recently, Sri Lanka approved the arrival of a Chinese satellite-tracking vessel named “Yuan Wang 5” to Hambantota port. India had protested the Chinese vessel’s visit, deeming it detrimental to India’s security.

About Yuan Wang 5
Must read: Yuan Wang 5: Why is the visit of a Chinese vessel to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port controversial?
How do Yuan Wang 5 impact India-Sri Lanka relations?

Permission by Sri Lanka might be violative of the 1987 Indo-Sri Lankan Accord. The accord calls upon the two countries to prevent foreign activity in their respective territories that could pose a threat to the other.

Note: The ship is not classified as a warship, and therefore Sri Lanka permitted it under research vessel.

Read more: Chinese military vessel at Hambantota is a spectre that threatens the new equilibrium in India-Sri Lanka relations
About China’s evolving Indian Ocean strategy

The Chinese policy in the Indian Ocean is gradual and relentless encroachment that expands China’s tactical space and asserts China’s rights and interests in spaces outside its sphere of natural influence.

Under it, China does not want to physically dominate the region, but it is creating a permissive environment for its military activities. For instance, in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, China has already sent survey and research vessels, as a way of marking their presence in the region.

They deployed YW-5 because

1) To threaten Indian interests in the region by conducting electronic snooping by foreign ships, aircraft and satellites, 2) To showcase Chinese support from Indian Ocean littoral states, 3) China uses maritime militias to threaten any activity deemed inimical to Chinese sovereign interests. So in future, they might deploy warships to foreign ports.

Read more: Step back from water’s edge
What does India need to do?

India needs to assess the following conditions and has to define them clearly to improve India’s maritime policy. These include a) Permitting foreign activity in littoral areas if it has a noble cause, b) International rules that privilege user-state rights can be permitted over the security concerns of littoral nations, and c) Whether India required law or should it demand special rights in its near-seas to protect India’s national security.

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