The Indian Navy has dispatched the INS Karanj, a diesel-electric submarine, to one of Sri Lanka’s main ports in a strategic move as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s spy ship Xiang Yang Hong 3 approaches the Maldives.
Arriving at Colombo Port on Saturday, the INS Karanj received a ceremonial welcome from the Sri Lankan Navy. Santosh Jha, New Delhi’s envoy to Colombo, engaged with Commander Arunabh and his crew during his visit to the submarine. The commanding officer, along with 100 nominated personnel of the Sri Lankan Navy, provided insights about the submarine. The commanding officer also met with Rear Admiral Saman Perera, the Commander of the Western Naval Area of the Sri Lankan Navy.
According to a press release from the High Commission of India in Sri Lanka’s capital, the INS Karanj is set to depart from Colombo Port on Monday.
This deployment coincides with Sri Lanka’s Independence Day and is seen as a demonstration of India’s commitment to being the primary security provider in the Indian Ocean region. The move is also interpreted as a message to China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy), which has heightened its maritime activities near India.
The INS Karanj’s visit to Colombo anticipates the arrival of the Chinese PLA Navy’s ‘research vessel,’ Xiang Yang Hong 3, in Malé. Despite India expressing security concerns, President Mohamed Muizzu’s government in Malé accepted Beijing’s diplomatic request for the vessel to dock at the main port of the Maldives.
The Chinese PLA Navy employs its ‘research vessels’ for various purposes, including hydrographic surveys, charting underwater paths, monitoring missile and satellite tests, and observing military installations in neighboring countries. India had previously expressed concerns about Chinese research vessels docking at Sri Lankan ports.
In response to Sri Lanka’s decision to restrict Chinese research vessels, Beijing has turned to its friendly relations with Muizzu’s regime in Malé, opting to use Maldivian ports for docking its vessels.
Tensions between New Delhi and Malé escalated when President Muizzu shifted the nation’s allegiance closer to China, reversing his predecessor’s ‘India First’ policy. The strain intensified when Muizzu requested the withdrawal of Indian military personnel deployed in the Maldives.
India is also apprehensive about the potential construction of a Chinese ocean observatory at Makunudhoo in the Maldives.
The relationship between New Delhi and Malé faced further challenges after a video surfaced showing armed men from the Indian Coast Guard aboard three Maldivian fishing vessels. Muizzu’s government sought an explanation from New Delhi regarding the incident.
Commissioned on March 10, 2021, the INS Karanj, the third submarine of the Kalveri class, makes its first foreign port call since its commissioning. The visit to Colombo is designated as an Operational Turn Around (OTR), during which the submarine will replenish fuel and provisions.
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