After a January trip to the Indian Ocean, the Chinese research ship Xiang-Yang-Hong-03 is scheduled to arrive in the Maldives on Thursday. Over a period of three weeks, the research institute-owned vessel surveyed waters beyond the exclusive economic zones of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and India. Despite the fact that they are not military personnel, India has expressed worries about China’s presence in the Indian Ocean.

Global ship-tracking data indicated that a Chinese research ship is scheduled to arrive in the Maldives on Thursday. This is just three months after a vessel of similar nature visited the Indian Ocean, raising security concerns in New Delhi.

The visit comes after a U.S. think tank stated in January that China’s navy could “leverage the insights gained from these missions” for the deployment of naval forces. Beijing views this as part of a narrative that is designed to damage China’s reputation.

More than a month after departing from its home port of Xiamen in the southeast, the research vessel Xiang-Yang-Hong-03, which is under the ownership of a ministry that reports to China’s natural resources, is scheduled to call at Male, according to information obtained from MarineTraffic.

According to ship-tracking data, the civilian ship surveyed waters just outside Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and India’s exclusive economic zones for more than three weeks.

According to China’s foreign ministry, the vessel’s research was conducted “exclusively” for peaceful ends that would advance scientific knowledge.

Even though China’s research vessels are not military vessels, India has expressed concern in recent years about their presence in the Indian Ocean.

The vessels were described as “dual-use” in the past by an Indian security official, indicating that the information they collect can be used for both military and civilian objectives.

Xiang-Yang-Hong-03 has made several trips to the Indian Ocean.

In 2021, as it passed through Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, it alarmed Indonesian authorities, who claimed that it had turned off its tracking system three times.

Also, Chinese research vessels have made port calls in neighboring Sri Lanka.

India was alarmed when the military ship Yuan Wang 5, which could track missile and rocket launches, arrived in Colombo in 2022.

India’s concerns were sparked by the fact that a Chinese research vessel hadn’t docked in Sri Lanka since October 2023. However, the island nation effectively denied China a port of call in January when it imposed a one-year ban on foreign research ships.

The arrival of Xiang-Yang-Hong-03 comes after Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu’s January visit to China, during which the Chinese government improved relations and offered “free aid” worth 920 million yuan ($128 million).

According to the Maldives, the ship will only pause to rotate personnel and restock supplies—it will not conduct any research in its waters.