China dismisses reports of military activities in the Indian Ocean as baseless

China criticizes a report by CSIS on the military applications of Chinese scientific research in the Indian Ocean.

Chinese state media has criticized a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent U.S. think tank, on the military applications of Chinese scientific research in the Indian Ocean. The report, which highlighted four years of deployments by Chinese civilian oceanographic and energy research ships, claimed that such activities could serve the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) needs to extend its operational reach and capabilities in the Indian Ocean, posing challenges to regional players like India, the United States, and its allies.

The state-controlled tabloid Global Times asserted that the report provides “ammunition” to countries aiming to fabricate a “China threat” narrative in the Indian Ocean region. It suggested that the timing of the report is sensitive, considering recent developments such as the upgrading of ties between China and the Maldives after the election of President Mohamed Muizzu, and Sri Lanka’s suspension of foreign research vessels, including those from China.

The CSIS study emphasized the importance of detailed knowledge of ocean depths, currents, and temperature for China’s growing submarine operations. The report warned that while there might be scientific and commercial benefits from Chinese oceanographic research, these activities could also be crucial for the PLA’s expansion in the Indian Ocean.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, responded by stating that China’s marine scientific research fully complies with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. He urged relevant parties to take an objective view of China’s marine scientific research activities and refrain from speculating.

The Chinese defence ministry has not provided an immediate response to requests for comment. The Global Times defended ongoing research missions, stating that China and regional partners were exploring the natural ecology of the Indian Ocean without any hidden agenda. It emphasized that the Indian Ocean is one of the least understood oceans by the scientific community, attributing this to the lack of sufficient on-site observations. As geopolitical tensions persist in the region, the scrutiny of China’s maritime activities in the Indian Ocean continues to be a subject of international concern and debate.