India has expressed apprehensions over the presence of two Chinese vessels in the Maldives. The issue came to the forefront again, during a weekly media briefing by Randhir Jaiswal, the official spokesperson for the Indian government, on Thursday. 

The briefing revealed that alongside the previously known Chinese vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, a second ship, the Lanhai (Blue Ocean), weighing 3,000 tons, is allegedly en-route to the waters of the Maldives. 

Journalists at the press briefing described this move to be perceived by some as a strategic display of power by China amidst the changing political landscape in the Maldives.

The Indian government has maintained a vigilant stance on developments that could impact its economic and security interests in the region. The official response to inquiries about the Chinese naval activity in the Maldives was to reassure that India continuously monitors such developments and takes necessary actions to protect its interests.

Concerns have been mounting in India over the potential military implications of the data collected by these Chinese research vessels. The Maldives foreign ministry, last week, announced it had granted permission for the Xiang Yang Hong 03 to dock for personnel rotation and replenishment, clarifying that the ship would not conduct any research in Maldivian waters. 

This incident follows a recent decision by Sri Lanka, the Maldives’ closest neighbour, to impose a one-year moratorium on foreign research ships entering its waters—a move seen as a response to Indian concerns over Chinese maritime activities.

Indian analysts highlight India’s apprehensions about the Chinese research ships, fearing the data collected could be used to enhance China’s undersea military operations, particularly in anti-submarine warfare capabilities. 

The Xiang Yang Hong 03 was scheduled to arrive in the Maldives on 31 January; however, maritime tracking information indicates it currently lingers just outside the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone. The latest data forecasts its docking in the Maldives to occur on 8 February.