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C3S Monograph III: Deep Sea Spree: A Technological Comparison of Indian & Chinese Capabilities

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

Image Courtesy: Zee News

C3S Monograph: 03/2021

A monograph is a single topic research summary of the knowledge surrounding an issue or a problem. It summarises the issue giving clear, concise, and complete information describing all facets of a particular issue including a detailed illustration in the form of images, data, and facts. It also includes recommendations for action and predictions on the future course of an issue.

Monographs are available for download as PDFs.


“To keep its head high up in the air, India needs to look down deep into the oceans!”

In the past few years, the domain of deep ocean has attracted the great attentions of nation-states all across the world. It is one of the few broad domains where very little technical as well as strategic knowledge has been developed. Previous studies have reported large untapped resources lying in the deep ocean. The increased interest in the domain also arises from the recent Chinese strides in this field, and its possible consequences. November 2020 brought with itself a new feat for the Chinese deep-sea exploration mission. ‘Fendouzhe’, the Chinese manned-submersible vessel, descended around 11,000 metres in the Pacific Ocean to reach the bottom of Challenger Deep. However, Chinese experience of unsustainable marine exploration has not been received well by the global community committed to sustainable development. The deep-sea exploration has not yet proven itself to be sustainable. Considering the importance of oceans in sustainability, the United Nations has declared 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Such technological advancement combined with its violation of international laws in the South China Sea has made it imperative for big powers to delve deeper into the domain of deep sea. In June 2021, India’s Cabinet approved the Rs. 4077 crore-Deep Ocean Mission in a bid to catch up with other leaders of the domain. The pilot project of Samudrayaan – a manned mission into deep sea- is a part of this umbrella mission. The mission is also supposed to give impetus to the realm of blue economy – one of the ten core dimensions of national growth enunciated in GoI’s Vision of New India by 2030. India is drawn towards the unexplored depths due not only to strategic reasons, but also economic value of the untapped resources.

The geo-strategic position of India piercing into the Indian Ocean Region as well as numerous studies on the existence of REEs & several other minerals in abundance in the Central Indian Ocean Basin and the Southwest Indian Ridge has added a sense of urgency to India’s tryst with deep sea. The economic potential of the basin south of India has pulled several international players, including China to enter the region strategically.

Though India was the first country to receive the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor’ for exploring the deep sea in 1987, we have, rather, started realizing the potential of deep sea only recently. The technology, as well as the regulations in this domain, are in their nascency. The study here aims to focus upon a comparison of India and China in the deep sea domain from a technological perspective and attempts a few logical conclusions which may help in defining India’s policy to upgrade indigenous technology and research in the domain in the upcoming decade.

Read the full monograph at this link: 

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About the Author

(Prateek Yadav is pursuing an internship at Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S). He is currently a final year student of B.Tech-M.Tech Dual Degree Programme in Mechanical Engineering Department at IIT Kanpur. He has keen interests in international politics and domestic politics. He has written various commentaries on these domains across various Indian platforms. He won the 2nd prize in NIOT-SAVe 2019 for developing a novel AUV. Having been closely involved in the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle group of IIT Kanpur for over a year, he attempts to apply his insights to compare the Indian and Chinese forays into deep-sea mining through a technological lens. The views expressed in the monograph are personal and do not reflect the views of C3S.)

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