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C3S Occasional Paper II: China’s Surreptitious Scientific and Survey Missions in IOR -Implicat

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

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C3S Occasional Paper: 02/2021

C3S launches its Monograph initiative. 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.


It has been said that ‘One who rules the seas, rules the world. This dictum has become more important due to an unprecedented race between the nations to claim the sea/oceanic areas as EEZs. The dwindling resources stressed economies, and prospects of oceanic wealth boosting the national wealth have caused this sometimes unfair- race. Indian Ocean Region (IOR) which contains oil, natural gas, mineral nodules, and fish and also has many important sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) is naturally of paramount importance to India and to its neighbouring countries. China’s ambitions of becoming a strong power that can stand up to the USA have resulted in the build-up of its maritime prowess at a rapid pace. Developing capabilities to operate in Indian Ocean Region (IOR), a gateway to SLOCs and various littoral countries has become a focal point for PLAN. Thus to gather oceanic data and sea bed information, unprecedented forays by Chinese ships on so-called scientific and survey missions, at times close to Indian EEZ have been observed. It’s an open secret that such data has dual-use, in that it’s useful for ships and submarine operations. It can also help in gathering information about the oceanic wealth available. Thus frequent operations, by Chinese ships in IOR naturally forms an important part of PLAN strategy. It has serious politico-economic-geostrategic ramifications for India. Thus India is rightfully concerned about such movements. This occasional paper will, therefore, try to examine the importance of IOR for India, specific reasons for Chinese forays in IOR, its implications for India and some suggested measure to mitigate the risk.

Keywords: IOR, China, Survey, EEZ, India, Scientific Missions, PLAN

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About the Author

(Commodore SL Deshmukh, NM (Retd), has served the Indian Navy for 32 years and Member, C3S. Alumni of the prestigious Defence Services Staff College Wellington, he has served on-board aircraft carriers and is specialized in fighter aircraft and ASW helicopters. He held many operational and administrative appointments including Principal Director at Naval HQ, Commodore Superintendent at Naval Aircraft Yard, Director, Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology, and Project Director of a major Naval Aviation Project. Post-retirement he was with Tata Group for 5 years and is currently working with SUN Group‘s Aerospace & Defence vertical as Senior Vice President. He is also a Life Member of the Aeronautical Society of India. The views expressed in this occasional paper are personal and does not reflect the views of C3S)

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