Indian Security ConcernsApprox Read Time: 6 minutes
- China has deployed a fleet of underwater drones apart from hydrographic survey and oceanic research ships in the Indian Ocean.
- These Sea Wing gliders are a type of Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (UUV) which can operate for months on end.
- India is keeping a watchful eye on the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) amid these reports.
- According to Chinese government sources, the drones were launched in mid-December 2019 and recovered in February after making observations.
- These long-range Sea Wing gliders made “more than 3,400 observations” for the winter survey of the “joint ocean and ecology research project” run by the Chinese ministry of natural resources.
- These Chinese research vessels maps different parts of the IOR.
- They regularly collect oceanographic data about the physical operating environment like seawater temperatures, salinity and chlorophyll levels, which are very useful for general navigation and submarine operations.
- The Chinese underwater drones were ostensibly gathering oceanographic data, transmitting information back to their mother ship via tail aerials, such data is commonly gathered for naval intelligence and submarine warfare operations.
- Unmanned/Uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUV), sometimes known as underwater drones, are any vehicles that are able to operate underwater without a human occupant.
- These vehicles may be divided into the two categories:
- Remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROUVs), which are controlled by a remote human operator.
- Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which operate independently of direct human input.
Why is it a matter of concern for India?
- While such surveys are undertaken for deep-sea mining and other commercial activities, they are also critical for submarine and anti-submarine warfare operations.
India on the Chinese research vessels in the IOR:
- Indian Navy is constantly tracking the presence of Chinese research vessels in the IOR through multiple platforms ranging from the P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft to warships on mission-based deployments.
- If any such Chinese research vessel enters India’s Exclusive Economic Zone and engages in any “suspicious military activity”, it is chased away by the Indian Navy after a suitable warning.
- Also, Indian Navy drove away a Chinese oceanic research vessel Shi Yan-1 after it was found indulging in suspicious activity near the strategically-located Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
- Since then, no Chinese vessel has entered our EEZ so far.
NOTE: India’s Exclusive Economic Zone stretches to 200 nautical miles from its coast
China’s presence in IOR:
- China has been rapidly expanding its naval footprint in the IOR.
- It is looking for more logistical bases after establishing its first overseas base at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and naval turnaround facilities at Karachi.
- Apart from deploying warships in the IOR for over a decade now, China has also been regularly sending both nuclear as well as conventional submarines to the region under the guise of anti-piracy patrols.
- With two aircraft carriers (two more are being built), 33 destroyers, 54 frigates, 42 corvettes, 50 diesel-electric and 10 nuclear submarines, among other warships, the Chinese Navy is now posing a challenge to even the US Navy.