India sends attack sub to Sri Lanka to counter China
The Indian Navy’s INS Karanj, a diesel attack submarine, docked in Sri Lanka over the weekend; its visit coincides with a Chinese vessel’s arrival in the Maldives, another island nation in the Indian Ocean which is locked in a diplomatic row with New Delhi.
The sub arrived at the port of Colombo on a formal visit on Saturday, the Sri Lankan Navy announced on X (formerly Twitter). The ship was received with a ceremonial welcome and dozens of the host nation's naval personnel were briefed aboard the vessel.
The sub’s port call comes against the backdrop of India raising concerns over research activities China is reportedly conducting in the Indian Ocean. On January 1, Sri Lanka announced that it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to dock at its ports or operate within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for one year.
INS Karanj – a submarine belonging to the @indiannavy arrived at the port of Colombo on a formal visit 03 February. @srilanka_navy@IndiainSL#Defence Read more : https://t.co/WjxpR2NaY8pic.twitter.com/lH9rdk398S— The Sri Lanka Navy (@srilanka_navy) February 3, 2024
A Chinese ship, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, which had originally been heading to Sri Lanka, was spotted by Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) observers and maritime tracking portals in January making its way to the Maldives. Commenting on the vessel’s movements at the time, Indian Navy officials said they were “tracking” the situation amid concerns that the ship could be used to gather sensitive data. The vessel, which departed southern China last month, is expected to reach Male later this week.
Meanwhile, the Maldives last week clarified that the Xiang Yang Hong 03 will not be conducting research in its waters and was allowed to dock at China’s request to make a port call “for the rotation of personnel” and replenishment of provisions. The development comes amid Male’s strengthening ties with Beijing and worsening relationship with New Delhi. Recently the island nation demanded the withdrawal of around 80 Indian military personnel operating in the archipelago.
After a second high-level meeting to iron out differences was held last week, Male said the troops would be withdrawn in phases starting in March. These developments come as the Maldives is deepening its ties with Beijing, which recently green-lit $130 million for the island nation’s development.
India sees China’s presence in the Indian Ocean as a reason for concern, as it believes the ‘research vessels’ are used not only for surveys but also for monitoring missiles or satellites test-fired from locations in the vicinity, as well as for keeping watch on military installations in the area. Last year, the Navy cautioned a parliamentary committee that at any point in time, five to nine Chinese ships are operating in the Indian Ocean region, in addition to their research vessels, which poses security risks for India.