The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) wants to flex its arms in the South China Sea or the East China Sea or even as far as the Galapagos archipelago in South America. But the paper Dragon must hold its horses when it comes to India. India is taking a deep dive into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), in a loud and clear signal to Beijing.
As per The Hindu, a top official of the Ministry of Earth Sciences has said that India is going to launch an ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ that aims at exploring minerals, energy and marine diversity of the underwater world. With this ambitious step, India is looking to fully harness its vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or Continental Shelf in the IOR.
The message coming from New Delhi is clear- China should not forget that IOR is India’s exclusive sphere of influence and the paper Dragon should think twice before embarking on any misadventure in this maritime space.
Ministry of Earth Sciences Secretary M Rajeevan said that required approvals are being taken for the “futuristic and game-changing” mission, and it is likely to be launched in the next 3-4 months. The said mission worth Rs. 4,000 core ($ 539 million approx) is going to stamp India’s authority over its vast EEZ in the IOR.
Rajeevan also said that the mission will involve developing technologies in order to propel different initiatives in the deep ocean sector. He added that this move will improve India’s presence in the IOR where other powers, including China, are also active.
With the ambitious mission, New Delhi is actually capitalising upon strategic leverage that it enjoys in the IOR. In September 2016, India had signed a contract for the next 15 years with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to explore Poly-Metallic Sulphides (PMS) in the Indian Ocean. India has been allotted a vast region spanning 1,50,000 sq. kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean for exploration.
Under this 15-year contract, India has a formal right to exclusively explore PMS in the alloted region. PMS contains important metals iron, copper, zinc, silver, gold and platinum, and are therefore strategically significant.
For many, the latest move by India might not seem strategically significant. But here is the real thing- New Delhi has made a bid to assert its authority in the IOR at a time when many countries including India, are battling Chinese belligerence and expansionism.
Also, it is well-known that China has a voracious appetite for fishing and other maritime resources. China’s disputes with ASEAN members like Vietnam in the South China Sea or with Japan in the East China Sea are largely guided by China’s desire to steal maritime resources that essentially fall in the Continental Shelves of other nations.
It is also well known that China wants to exploit maritime resources in the Indian Ocean. The paper Dragon has been trying to make inroads in the IOR. Only last year, the Indian Navy shooed away a Chinese vessel, ‘Shi Yan 1,’ possibly a spy ship that was carrying out suspicious research activities in the Indian waters near Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and was detected by maritime surveillance aircraft operating there.
Now, by giving a major push to its exploration activities in its EEZ, India is warning China against crossing the red line in the IOR. New Delhi’s message to the paper Dragon is very clear- you have no stake in the IOR and stay away from India’s EEZ for your own sake. India is thus, quite openly keeping China at bay in the Indian Ocean.