At least fifteen Chinese ships have been spotted in the Indian Ocean area
by India's satellites during the last few months even as the armies of both the
countries are engaged in an eyeball to eyeball confrontation in the tri
junction of India-Bhutan and China for the last one week.
China has built ports in Colombo and Gwador in Pakistan and had parked its
nuclear submarine in Hambantata port in Sri Lanka recently. It is also building
a port at Hambantata.
Chinese naval activities in the Indian Ocean area have increased in the
last few months ever since New Delhi had taken a stand against that country in
South China Sea issue.
In the Indian Ocean, a Chinese Yuan-class conventional submarine is also
prowling the waters, after an operational turnaround in Karachi and backed by
support vessel Chongmingdao, since April. This is the one of the several
Chinese submarines to enter the region.
A Chinese surveillance ship is also reported to have entered Indian Ocean region
last week probably to snoop on the India-US-Japan Malabar naval exercise in the
Bay of Bengal from next week. India Japan and United States have been
conducting these naval exercises for the last few years and Australian navy is
expected to join from next year.
China has deployed such ships in the past also to keep tabs on the Malabar
exercise, which it suspects is a naval grouping aimed to contain its growing
influence. US suspects that China could block energy supplies to Japan and
South Korea which is sourced in Persian Gulf countries and had to pass through
Indian Ocean region before entering Malacca Straits.
The fast pace of construction of the Chinese base and support facility at
Djibouti and Gwador near the Persian Gulf will only add to its capability to
sustain its naval units in the IOR. China is also on look out for some islands
near Myanmar to keep an eye on the Indian naval establishment in Andaman
With China intensifying its presence in Indian Ocean Region, the early
completion of Sethusamudram Ship Canal project has become imperative from
India's security stand point. As of now entire Indian coast, South of
Rameshwaram Islands can be reached only by circumnavigating through Sri Lanka.
There are important installations like Tuticorin Port and Kudangulam nuclear
The Sethu Ship Canal project which facilitates direct movement of ships
fron Chennai to Kanyakumari was called off several years ago on Ram Setu issue.
Supreme Court had asked the shipping ministry to consider an alternative route
but had not stayed the project.
Eight years have passed and the Shipping Ministry is yet to submit an
alternative route to the Apex Court. Central government had spent nearly Rs one
thousand crores on the project when it was called off.