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India is planning to test launch the K-4 long-range SLBM from nuke boat INS ARIHANT

India is rescheduling the November 10-11 test flight of the Agni series nuclear-capable ballistic missile. The Navy says Yuan Wang-6 will not be allowed into the country’s EEZ

Indian military planners are working out fresh dates for user trials of the Agni series nuclear-capable ballistic missile, scheduled for November 10-11. This comes amidst the Indian Navy keeping a close watch on the movement of Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang-6 in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).

Spotted late last week in Bali, the 22,000-ton Yuan Wang-6 of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA Navy) is capable of tracking long-range ballistic missile trajectories and satellite launches. The Indian Navy has made it clear that it will not allow Yuan Wang-6 to enter the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends 200 nautical miles into the sea. In 2019, Indian Navy warships had chased away a suspected Chinese spy vessel, Shi Yan 1, purportedly doing research activity close to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Commodore Anil Jai Singh (Retd), a submariner, says the suspect Chinese vessels in the IOR are technically not warships and fall in the surveyor ship category. India, he says, cannot really do much unless the ships do something overtly hostile. “If the vessels stay in the high seas, that’s everybody’s territory. But we need to monitor their activity. Since these are not warships, technically they have the right to venture into EEZs too,” Commodore Singh said.

The movement of Yuan Wang-6 came barely 20 days after India conducted the test firing of a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) from INS Arihant, its first indigenous nuclear submarine. The projectile hit the target area in the Bay of Bengal with high accuracy.

The ministry of defence (MoD) said in a statement that the SLBM launch was ”significant to prove crew competency and validate” ballistic missiles which are a “key element of India’s nuclear deterrence capability”. The launch made India only the sixth country with capability to conduct nuclear strikes and counters trikes on land, sea and air. The other countries are US, Russia, UK, France and China.

On November 2, India successfully conducted the test flight of the Phase-II ballistic missile defence (BMD) interceptor AD-1 missile from the A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast. Next in line was the November 10-11 trial of the Agni series nuclear-capable ballistic missile.

PLA Navy presence in the IOR has been a growing concern for India. Some time back, the Indian Navy’s maritime long-range surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft P-8I had detected as many as seven Chinese Navy warships around the Indian Ocean.

In August, the Chinese spy ship Yuan Wang-5 had docked at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port despite concerns raised by New Delhi. Yuan Wang-5 is a dual-use ship with capability to track satellites, rockets and intercontinental ballistic missiles. It has 400 crew members and advanced equipment.

Indian military planners say China has a long-term strategy to operate in the IOR. It has set up a submarine base in Bangladesh in return for two submarines given to Dhaka. China has also provided an old submarine to Myanmar while eight submarines are being given to Pakistan.

China is building more research ships for ‘spying’ activity under the garb of research. India has only INS Dhruv in the category, which is used to monitor missile firings. Commodore Singh said the movement of Chinese spy vessels in the IOR was expected to be a regular feature now.

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