The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in late March named five seabed features in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) after Chinese musical instruments, as per reports. The move follows China’s renaming of several places in Arunachal Pradesh last week.
China had previously objected to the term ‘Indian Ocean’ itself and said that the Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean.
While China had earlier renamed undersea features in other maritime regions, this is the first time that the Communist Party navy has made public that it has done so in the IOR. According to the PLA official quoted in the report, this is an example of China’s 'soft power'.
“The PLA Navy has completed work on naming five seabed places in the international waters of the Indian Ocean, making a total of nine seabed place names in the international waters of the Indian Ocean,” national broadcaster CCTV’s military channel reported in late March.
Some of the renamed places include Huapengu (Flowerpot Drum) sea knoll, Tang Drum sea knoll, fishing drum sea knoll waist drum seamount, among others.
A seamount is a large underwater volcanic mountain while sea knolls are smaller volcanic mountains. The state media report did not share the precise location of these features, while the location of the other four features is also unknown.
China’s interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has been growing in the last few years. Its infamous “String of Pearls” strategy of encircling India through a network of strategic bases and ports in the Indian Ocean has been a concern for quite some time now.
More recently, the PLA Navy has increased patrolling and surveillance in the region, sending ‘spy ships’ to ports it has acquired from neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka. A Chinese ‘spy ship’, the ‘Hai Yang Shi You’, was spotted 161 nautical miles off the coast of Orissa two weeks ago, as per reports.
The vessel was classified as a ‘research vessel’, and is one among the many sent by PLAN regularly, to gather strategic information, including mapping the ocean floor, which could be used in future conflicts to one’s advantage.
China has also been expanding its ‘secretive’ base in the Coco Islands — an archipelago near the Northern Andaman Islands.
India confronted Myanmar over the issue after London-based policy research group Chatham House released a report last week claiming that the junta government was militarising the island and satellite imagery of construction activity on the island appeared.
PLAN’s moves in the Indian Ocean are being closely watched by the Indian Navy as it also expands its footprint in the region. India considers the Indian Ocean Region its backyard and China would be hard-pressed to challenge its traditional dominance in the region.
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