DELHI (Diya TV) — A Chinese research vessel has been sighted off India’s eastern coast, sparking concerns in New Delhi over potential military intelligence gathering. The vessel, identified as Xian Yang Hong 01, is currently anchored in international waters less than 260 nautical miles off the coast of Visakhapatnam, a strategic location where India bases its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

The timing of the vessel’s positioning, just days after India announced plans to test fire the Agni-5 missile, has raised suspicion. Xian Yang Hong 01, weighing 4,813 tonnes, is equipped with remote sensing equipment capable of detecting sub-surface acoustic signatures. This capability allows the vessel to record acoustic footprints of submarines and potential underwater launches, making it a valuable intelligence asset.

This development follows recent alarm over another Chinese research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, which was observed near the Sri Lankan coast. The vessel’s activities, including its movements between the Maldives and Sri Lanka, have intensified India’s concerns regarding potential surveillance operations in its maritime domain.

Tensions between India and China have been heightened since a military standoff along their Himalayan border in 2020, compounded by historical animosity stemming from a war fought between the two nations in 1962. Beijing has maintained that its research vessels conduct ocean-bed surveys for peaceful scientific purposes, dismissing allegations of military intent.

Despite reassurances from Beijing, Indian officials remain apprehensive about the possibility of data collection that could benefit China’s military ambitions, particularly in submarine deployments. The Indian navy is reportedly monitoring the vessel’s activities closely, although official responses from both the Indian navy and the Chinese defense ministry have yet to be issued.

The sighting of Chinese research vessels near India’s coast underscores the geopolitical complexities of the region, with neighboring countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives increasingly pivoting towards China. Last year, Sri Lanka imposed restrictions on foreign research ships, while the Maldives granted them permission, signaling a shift in regional dynamics.

Amidst growing concerns, a U.S. think tank previously highlighted the importance of detailed oceanic data for China’s naval operations, echoing India’s apprehensions.