Indian Navy spokesperson categorically denies Nikkei Asian Review report about face-off near Male; no Chinese navy ships observed in the area.

New Delhi: India has categorically denied reports that its warships were in direct confrontation with the Chinese Navy near the Maldives last month as the state of emergency imposed on the island nation fuelled tensions in the region.

Responding to a report in the Nikkei Asian Review (NAR), an Indian Navy spokesperson said that no such incident took place near the capital city of Male after President Abdulla Yameen had suspended civil rights after an adverse court ruling.

The Japanese publication had described a purported incident on 22 February, saying that the Indian Navy threatened actions like firing a warning shot and war drills to thwart Chinese warships that were “around 30 nautical miles from India’s vessels”.

“The Indian Navy categorically denies the report published and has no comments to offer as no incident of this nature has taken place in the first instance,” the navy spokesperson told ThePrint.

The NAR report claimed that a Chinese fleet was near Male but retreated to 276 nautical miles southeast of the capital city after the confrontation with Indian warships. Sources, however, have told ThePrint that no Chinese vessel has been observed close to the island nation since tensions rose, with the navy keeping a close watch of all movements in the Indian Ocean Region.

This is the second time the Indian Navy has denied reports of confrontation with China in the Indian Ocean Region after the Maldives crisis. Earlier in February, a Chinese portal had claimed that a dozen PLA Navy combatants had entered the Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy had then said that it had not found any abnormal or alarming deployments.

Five Chinese warships did enter the IOR for a few days in February on what seemed like a regular patrol, but had returned thousands of miles away from the Maldives. These ships came in from the Java Sea and the Sunda Strait, and returned through the Lombok Strait, sources had said.

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