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China up to dirty tricks, spies on Indian warships during ASEAN naval drills

China up to dirty tricks, spies on Indian warships during ASEAN naval drills

Indian Navy’s warships INS Delhi and INS Satpura in Singapore for Inaugural ASEAN India Maritime Exercise (AIME). Twitter/@indiannavy

China appears to continue its surveillance on the activities of other nations. In the latest, at least eight Chinese maritime “militia” vessels and surveillance vessel Xiang Yang Hong 10 tried to snoop on the first-ever Asean-India naval exercise that concluded in the South China Sea on Monday.

The drills, however, continued as planned since the Chinese vessels and aircraft did not come close to the exercising warships.

Meanwhile, India and the South East Asian nations were closely monitoring the boats’ movement by the maritime militia that were operating under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).


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What was China trying to claim?

China has been locked in territorial disputes with its neighbours in the contentious South China Sea. It has sought to establish a strong presence in the region, where it is engaged in maritime disputes with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

A report by Deccan Herald quoted a source saying that through its maritime militia operation, China was “apparently intended to assert its expansive claims on the South China Sea, flex its maritime muscles and to send out the message to New Delhi and the ASEAN capitals that it was not amused by the ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise (AIME).

During the maritime exercise, the Chinese vessels alongwith a research vessel approached the exercise area in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam but did not hinder the drills carried out by the warship of India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam on 7 and 8 May.

At one point of time, the Chinese boats came 70-80 kilometres of the Indian and the ASEAN warships in the South China Sea.

“The Chinese vessels did not come anywhere close to impacting the AIME drills or manoeuvres. There was no close proximity to raise any alarm. A careful watch was, however, kept on the Chinese vessels,” a report by Times of India quoted an Indian defence establishment source as saying.

What did warships of Indian and ASEAN states do?

Hindustan Times quoted people familiar with the matter saying that the warships of India and some other Asean states which were involved in the exercise had gone “dark” by switching off their automatic identification system (AIS).

Who spotted Chinese vessels in South China Sea?

The presence of the Chinese vessels was first reported on social media by former US Air Force officer, Ray Powell who tracks developments in South China Sea for the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University.

Powell said that on Sunday evening, five Chinese maritime militia ships moved from the Spratly Islands to the area of the India-Asean drill. Three other Chinese maritime militia ships left Subi Reef and headed in the direction of the exercise area on Monday.

The two-day sea phase of the ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise, or AIME 2023, started on Sunday.

India’s indigenous warships INS Delhi, INS Satpura and a P8I maritime patrol aircraft participated in the drill.

India is watching China’s moves

India has been persistently keeping a close watch on China’s moves in the South China Sea. New Delhi is also taking all the preventive measures to ensure that the Chinese navy doesn’t gain stronghold on the Indian Ocean where combat-ready Indian warships have been conducting round-the-clock surveillance for any unusual activity.

India has been consistently voicing for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo-Pacific and has been emphasising on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.

With inputs from agencies

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