China's marine cooperation with the Maldives carries no military purpose and the Indian media's exaggerated reports stem from jealousy of Chinese cooperation with South Asian countries, analysts said.
The joint ocean observation station China will build in the Maldives could challenge security for the Indian government as the observatory will have a military application including even a submarine base, The Times of India reported on Monday.
The station in Makunudhoo, not far from India, gives China a vantage point on an important Indian Ocean shipping route, the Times of India reported. It will be uncomfortably close to Indian waters and test Maldives ties, the report said.
"Any cooperation China conducted with South Asian countries is interpreted by the Indian side as besieging India, as India believes South Asia is its backyard," Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
The Indian media has increasingly hyped China's cooperation with the Maldives this year due to the chaotic political situation, Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times. India wanted to incite Maldives' public opinion against China, he said.
Indian media reflected Indian hegemonism and irresponsible remarks on China's cooperation with the Maldives could harm regional stability, Zhao said.
China and the Maldives signed a protocol to build a joint ocean observation station when President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives visited China in December, according to the website of China's State Oceanic Administration.
The two countries would accelerate plans to build the station to observe the climate and the ocean, and deepen cooperation in marine ecology preservation, prevention of marine disasters and marine scientific research, according to the protocol.
While denying its military purpose, Hu said that building an ocean observatory station with countries such as the Maldives could greatly reduce the cost of ocean measurement and improve the accuracy and stability of signals used for marine research.
Chinese analysts said that the Maldives is an important country on the route of the Belt and Road initiative and China has strengthened cooperation with the Maldives in ocean and port construction since 2014.
Marine cooperation between China and the Maldives started in 2014 and the two countries have established a stable and long-term cooperation mechanism, the ocean administration said.
From 2015 to 2017, China and the Maldives conducted two phases of joint marine investigation in waters surrounding the islands, which provided data about Indian Ocean climate change and monsoons.