Against a backdrop of increased Chinese activities in and around its territorial waters, the Indian Navy has deployed eight warships around the entry points into the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to keep an eye on the activities.
Eleven Chinese warships reportedly sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, amid a constitutional crisis and state of emergency in the Maldives.
A fleet of destroyers and at least one frigate, a 30,000-tonne amphibious transport dock and three support tankers entered the Indian Ocean, news portal Sina.com.cn said, without linking the deployment to the crisis in the Maldives or giving a reason.
"If you look at warships and other equipment, the gap between the Indian and Chinese navy is not large," Sina.com.cn said. It did not say when the fleet was deployed or for how long.
The Indian deployments are in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assertion that the Navy was the net security provider in the IOR, and the responsibility of maintaining security and stability in this region was India's responsibility.
"At any time, we have eight warships on patrol to keep an eye on the entry points in and around the IOR, as part of our mission-based deployments, which started around six months ago. Along with it, we also have our training vessels on a look out around the area," Reuters cited government sources as saying.
"All the choke and entry points for the Chinese into the IOR are being monitored by our ships, along with the eastern and western fleets, which are deployed on both sides of the country. Any area not directly monitored is scanned regularly by the P-8Is operating in the region," they said.
The Rukmini radar is also keeping a watch over the area, they said.
On the reports that Chinese Navy had deployed 11 warships in the IOR to deter India from interfering in Maldivian affairs, the sources said no movement of Chinese ships was detected near the Maldivian waters. The closest they came was 2,500 nautical miles.
The Indian Navy has robust maritime domain awareness and has a clear picture of happenings in the IOR, Navy spokesperson Captain D K Sharma said.
Reports say a Chinese Navy task force entered the Indian Ocean from the Sunda Strait for exercises in international waters 15 days ago, which is close to Australia, and has since left via Lombok strait that lies between the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok.
Rivalry between the Indian and Chinese navies has been playing out in the Indian Ocean as China has been trying to create bases in territories close to India such as Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
The Chinese are also creating new ports in the Maldives to deploy ships in the IOR where more than 70 per cent of its merchant shipping takes place.