Chinese Research Vessel Anchors Near Male as Indian and Sri Lankan Coastguards Begin Joint Exercise
Chinese Research Vessel Anchors Near Male as Indian and Sri Lankan Coastguards Begin Joint Exercise

Male, The Maldives witnessed the arrival of military vessels from India and Sri Lanka for a trilateral naval exercise as a Chinese research ship docked near the Male port, media sources reported on Thursday. The vessel, named Xiang Yang Hong 03, was reported to have anchored close to Male City in the morning and later moved near Thilafushi around noon, as per data from the Marine Traffic website, which monitors global ship movements.

On January 23, the Maldives government granted permission for the research ship, primarily designated for research and surveys, to dock at the Male port. However, officials clarified that the vessel would not conduct any research activities during its stay in Maldivian waters.

India has raised concerns regarding the presence of the Xiang Yang Hong 03 in the Indian Ocean and urged Sri Lanka to deny docking permission at Colombo port.

Mohamed Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, won the presidential election last year with an 'anti-India' agenda. His recent visit to Beijing aimed to strengthen bilateral ties between Maldives and China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin defended the ship's activities, stating they adhere to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Wang emphasized China's commitment to peaceful scientific research in oceanic regions.

Simultaneously, the Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka initiated the Trilateral Joint Exercise 'DOSTI-16' on Thursday morning, with the participation of Bangladesh as observers. The exercise aims to bolster collaboration among the coast guards of the three nations.

"The biennial exercise aims to enhance military cooperation and address maritime incidents collectively," stated a post by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) alongside images of the participating vessels.

The 'DOSTI' exercise originated between Maldives and India in 1991, with Sri Lanka joining in 2012. The latest iteration was conducted in 2021, promoting mutual understanding and operational coordination.

The visit of the Indian coastguard ship coincides with Male's request for the withdrawal of 88 Indian military personnel from three aviation platforms in the Maldives by March 15.

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