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Tensions Rise as Chinese ‘Research Vessel’ Docks in Maldives

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In the most recent indication of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its longtime benefactor India, a controversial Chinese research ship arrived in the Maldives on Thursday.

Locals reported seeing China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the industrial port of Thilafushi, which is close to Male, the capital.

The 100-meter-long (328-foot) ship was Thursday night at an anchorage close to Male, according to the website Marine traffic.

The ship was docking for a port call to rotate crew and pick up supplies, according to the Maldives’ pro-Beijing government. However, they stipulated that the vessel would not be conducting “research” while in their territorial waters.

India is wary of China’s growing influence in the Maldives and Sri Lanka, which are positioned halfway along important east-west international shipping routes, as well as its growing presence in the Indian Ocean.

Following the election of pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu last year, relations between Male and New Delhi have cooled.

By March 15, Muizzu has requested that India remove 89 security officers stationed in the Maldives so they can fly reconnaissance planes.

However, the president has also stated that he does not wish to sever relations with New Delhi by sending Chinese troops in place of Indian troops.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.

That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specialises in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship.

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