India to keep watch on Chinese naval facility in Seychelles

December 16th, 2011 - 12:02 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 15 (IANS) With China planning a supply and recuperation facility in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles, India Thursday said it will “watch” the development and how Beijing uses this arrangement in this strategically-important location.

However, it also seem convinced with the Chinese explanation that it will not be a military base, but just a refueling and supply facility.

“We will watch. We will see,” highly-placed government sources said here.

After reports suggested that China was setting up a naval base, Beijing came out with a clarification that it was only establishing a refueling centre at the Seychelles harbour needed for its warships that are on anti-piracy patrol duty in the Gulf of Aden.

“Chinese themselves have said it is not a military base. Seychelles has offered its harbour for use to refuel and stocking of Chinese warships that are in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations, like they have been already doing in some ports of Arab nations,” the sources said.

China had been till recently using Karachi port in Pakistan for its warships’ and naval personnel recuperation and supplies.

But the terror attack on its Mehran naval air base in Karachi in May this year, China has been “careful” not to risk its warships at Pakistani naval bases in view of the terror threats, the sources said.

“The Chinese used to dock at Karachi naval base in Pakistan earlier, but after the recent events there, Chinese are careful about it,” the sources said.

The Chinese warships are also now using Salalah in Oman and Djibouti for the recuperation purposes, they added.

The government sources also said the Seychelles offer to China to use its harbour for such purposes is only “reflective” of the assessment that small island nations in the Indian Ocean region are at high risk of piracy closer to their waters.

India has, in the recent years, been active in helping Seychelles in securing its exclusive economic zone and maritime territory from pirates and terrorists groups. It has in recent years based a naval patrol aircraft in Seychelles to carry out surveillance, apart from gifting a fast attack craft for intercepting suspicious boats in its maritime territory.

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