The Indian Navy on Friday said that it is closely monitoring the movement of a Chinese research vessel which has entered the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), news agency ANI reported citing people familiar with the developments.

The people mentioned above told ANI that the Indian Navy is keeping its eye on the vessel. They said the Indian Navy’s assets and its aerial surveillance capabilities ensure that the Navy ‘maintains a comprehensive maritime domain awareness in the region’.

They said that the Indian Navy keeps an eye on any such activity in its area of responsibility through both aerial and maritime assets.

The Chinese research vessel entered the IOR through the Sunda straits and remains at a significant distance from Indian waters. Several high altitude long-range unmanned aerial vehicles will keep a close watch and the vessel’s movements are being monitored closely.

If the vessel comes closer to Indian waters, the possibility of a rendezvous with an Indian surface warship increases. There is a strong possibility that the so-called Chinese vessel may track upcoming Indian missile launches planned by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

This is not the first time China has sent its so-called ‘research vessels’ in the Indian Ocean region. Though Beijing claims these are research vessels, it uses such vessels to spy on its neighbours.

Earlier in August, China forced its neighbour Sri Lanka to allow the spy ship Yuan Wang 5 to dock in the Hambantota Port. Though Sri Lanka has lost full administrative rights to the port as it was developed with Chinese money and the bankrupt nation also handed the port on a 99-year lease as part of a debt swap.

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is an area that India considers as an area of traditional influence and the presence of Chinese spy ships pose threat to safety and security of the Kudankulam and Kalpakkam nuclear reactors, as well as to the Chennai and Thoothukudi ports.

China calls these ships ‘research vessels’ but the US Pentagon deems these ships as spy vessels and says these ships have the potential to track missiles and rockets launched and also help in launching them as they are equipped with top-of-the-line antennas and electronic equipment.