The Indian Navy has said there are no Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean close to Maldives. The clarification is aimed at refuting Chinese media reports that five warships were headed to the region.
The Chinese reports of the movement of the naval vessels was reported by news portal Sina. This had caught the attention of international news agencies considering the high-voltage posturing that Beijing has adopted over the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives.
Irrespective of the fact that New Delhi has categorically ruled out military intervention in the island nation, China has repeatedly issued warnings to India against sending troops to sort out the crisis, like it had done in 1988.
China's warnings against intervention are rooted in its need to back Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, who had just months ago signed agreements with China to allow military ships to dock in Maldivian ports. Yameen had also signed his country on to become part of China's Belt and Road Initiative.
However, the Indian Navy has said there is no question of Chinese warships lurking around close to the Maldives. "We have a very robust surveillance system and we have a clear maritime domain awareness picture round the clock in the Indian Ocean Region," Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma told news agency ANI.
Sources in the Navy also said that the five Chinese warships in question were on a routine navigation deployment between the Lombok Strait and the Sunda Strait, thousands of kilometres away.
The Navy sources said the Chinese ships had entered the eastern part of the Indian Ocean Region through the Sunda Strait - that lies between the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra - and exited through the Lombok Strait - that lies between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok.
Such deployments are routine for navies around the world. As they pass through choke points like straits, the ships gather hydrological data such as depth and sea floor features. This data is then used in planning strategies to ensure access to sea lanes of communication in times of need.
(With inputs from ANI)