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Ahead of India's missile test, China sneaks in spy ship in Indian Ocean

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The spy vessel is a 20,000-tonne, 730-feet-long ship with 400 crew members and equipped with advanced electronic equipment, sensors and antennae

New Delhi, Dec 06: Yet another Chinese spy ship has entered Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as India is prepping up for long-range ballistic missile test. This development comes months after Chinese high-tech research ship was docked at Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka that led to diplomatic strains between India and Lanka.

Research and space-tracking vessel Yuan Wang-5 entered the IOR through the Sunda Strait of Indonesia on Monday morning, a daily reported citing defence sources. The ship is now being closely watched by the Indian Navy. The spy vessel, which is a 20,000-tonne, 730-feet-long ship with 400 crew members and equipped with advanced electronic equipment, sensors and antennae, arrived weeks after India issued a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) area warning in the Sea of Andaman for about 5000 kms for December 15 and December 16.

Ahead of Indias missile test, China sneaks in spy ship in Indian Ocean

Open source geospatial intelligence analyst Damien Symon had speculated recently about the return of the Chinese vessel to the Indian Ocean region. "Speculative, but it appears like Yuan Wang 5, #China's satellite & missile tracking ship might be heading back to the #IndianOcean region, [sic]" he had tweeted on December 2.

India is set to test Agni-V, which is capable of striking targets at ranges up to 5,000 kilometres with very high degree of accuracy, next week. The indigenously developed Inter Continental Ballistic Missile is in the process of being inducted into the tri-service Strategic Forces Command, which manages India's nuclear arsenal.

Sri Lanka allows Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang-5 to dock at HambantotaSri Lanka allows Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang-5 to dock at Hambantota

It has to be seen whether the missile test will be conducted as per the earlier plans or will be delayed due to the presence of the Chinese space-tracking vessel. Last month, a test of the 3,000-km Agni-3 missile was delayed due to the presence of Chinese vessel, Yuan Wang-6.

As all countries have the freedom of navigation in the international waters, India cannot raise objection to the Chinese ship entering the IOR. "China, of course, also has several satellites to monitor our missile tests," the source told the daily. The vessels from China often enters the IOR to map oceanographic and other data useful for navigation and submarine operations.

It may be recalled that in August, Yuan Wang 5 was slated to arrive on the 11th of that month at the Chinese-owned port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka. After New Delhi's intervention, Colombo had briefly withdrawn berthing permission, thereby delaying the vessel's arrival at Hambantota. However, it was allowed docked at Hambantota on 16 August and the vessel departed Sri Lankan shores on 22 August.

Nonetheless, the Indian Navy is keeping a close eye on all developments in the Indian Ocean, including the movement of Chinese Navy ships that operate in the region, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Saturday. "There are a lot of Chinese ships which operate in the Indian Ocean Region. We have about 4-6 PLA Navy ships, then some research vessels which operate. A large number of Chinese fishing vessels operate in the Indian Ocean Region. We keep a close watch on all developments," the Navy Chief said during a press meet.

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