China on Friday said its research ship sailed through India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Andaman Islands in September, but it did not conduct any experiment. Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh on Tuesday said a Chinese naval ship was driven away from the EEZ in the Andaman sea recently, asserting that such activities will be dealt with sternly.
Military sources in New Delhi said the research ship Shi Yan 1 forayed into Indian waters in September but was forced to retreat after it was suspected to be involved in spying. The ship entered the area without Indian Navy’s prior permission, they said. Singh said anyone operating in "our region, will have to notify the Indian Navy".
The Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement on Friday said, "China has taken note of the remarks made by the Indian navy chief of staff on the Indian navy’s expulsion of the Chinese research vessel 'Experiment-1' in September."
"It has been verified that the research vessel 'Experiment-1' was conducting acoustic propagation experiments and hydrologic environment measurements on the high seas of the Indian Ocean. It did not conduct any operations in the Indian EEZ during the whole process, and only sailed through the Indian EEZ on the way to and from the experimental area," the statement said.
It said throughout the ship’s voyage, the Indian navy aircraft followed it with warnings and its crew also replied in accordance with international practice. "These facts are supported by operational plans, logbooks, and GPS tracks. Experiment-1’s scientific activities are in full compliance with the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," the statement said.
"China has always exercised the freedom of scientific research on the high seas in accordance with the law and fully respects the jurisdiction of relevant coastal states over their scientific research activities in the waters under their jurisdiction," it said.
"The Chinese side hopes relevant parties take a correct view of China’s marine scientific research activities and avoid disturbing normal and lawful maritime activities," it added.
Since 2008, there has been a permanent presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean region, mostly in the form of an anti-piracy escort force. There have been considerable concerns in India over China’s growing presence in the region.
India has been trying to expand maritime cooperation with countries of the region including Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore, primarily with an aim to check Chinese assertiveness.