BEIJING: Within days of the ongoing diplomatic row between India and China over Indian plans to explore oil in maritime areas offered by Vietnam in the South China Sea, China on Saturday announced plans to expand its seabed mineral explorations in the Indian Ocean. The announcement came after International Seabed Authority (ISA) approved China’s bid to mine for polymetallic sulphide ore.
Beijing has got approval to explore 10,000 sq km seabed area in southwest Indian Ocean for the ore. What has surprised India is the speed at which China got the sanction. The China Ocean Mineral Resources and Development Association (COMRA) had only in recent weeks filed its application with the ISA for Deep Sea Mining Exploration License for approval of plan of work for exploration of polymetallic sulphites in the South West Indian Ocean Ridge. The application was earlier approved by the International Seabed Authority in July 2011.
COMRA will now sign a 15-year exploration contract with ISA later this year. The approval will grant China pre-emptive rights to develop the ore deposit in future.
The move has raised concerns in India with Directorate of Naval Intelligence (DNI) informing the Indian government that the contract would provide an excuse for China to operate its warships besides compiling data on the vast mineral resources in India’s backyard.
Chinese on Friday also released a guideline on the oceanic science and technology development between 2011 and 2015, vowing to invest more to boost the country’s maritime economy. Liu Cigui, head of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), said “more efforts will be made to boost innovation and strive for breakthroughs in key technology in order to stimulate the development of emerging oceanic industries.”
China has also obtained exclusive rights to prospect in a 75,000-square-km polymetallic nodule ore deposit in the east Pacific Ocean in 2001.
Apparently in preparation for its ambitious oceanic research projects, China has stepped up its experiments with first manned deep sea submersible which touched about 6000 meters in the Pacific Ocean last month with three people on board.
According to China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA), the submersible named Jiaolong is designed to reach a maximum depth of 7,000 meters expected some time next year. It completed 17 dives in the South China Sea between 31 May and 18 July last year, reaching 3,759 metres during its deepest dive. China is the fifth country to send a man 3,500 meters below sea level, following the USA, France, Russia and Japan.
India in the Indian Ocean Exploration
Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Ashwani Kumar on September 8, 2011 that India was the first country to have received the status of a Pioneer Investor in August, 1987. India was allocated an area of 1,50,000 sq. km by UN for carrying out various developmental activities for polymetallic nodules (PMN) in Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) in August, 1987. As per ISA regulations for exploration of Polymetallic Nodules (PMN) in the area, the Ministry (formerly Department of Ocean Development) also signed a contract of 15 years for various developmental activities in the area in 2002.
But 24 years after India was accorded Pioneer Investor and almost 10 years after signing contract with ISA, the only achievement India availed of its status was carrying out a detailed survey. Now, that there are hardly 6 years left, only half of the allocated area equaling 75,000 sq. km has been identified for further development.
Beijing, given its remarkable ability to pull even large infrastructural project before deadline, is expected to fully utilise the approval of exploration.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, replying to a question in the Loksabha on security implications of import from China said, “Government has taken cognizance of security implications of import of electronic components from China, especially while manufacturing encryption products”. The government has advised Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to ensure that components of encryption products manufactured by it are not imported from China.
(With PTI inputs)