New Delhi: Days after the US military shot down a Chinese surveillance craft floating over sensitive installations in the country, media reports suggest that India was one of the countries targeted by the fleet of spy balloons operated by China.
The Washington Post has cited several US officials as saying that “the surveillance balloon effort, which has operated for several years partly out of Hainan province off China’s south coast, has collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.”
On Monday, the Financial Times had reported that “in January 2022 one of the white orbs was spotted over India” without mentioning the area where it was spotted. Based on local media reports from Andaman, it seems that the balloon was cited over the strategically important islands in the Bay of Bengal which have India’s critical military installations.
Andaman Sheekha reported on it on January 6, 2022, “The white sphere shaped object, looking somewhat like weather balloon, attracted many eyeballs because of its size and shiny white surface.” This description matches the balloon that was shot down by the US last week.
Even Andaman and Nicobar Command PRO had then told Andaman Sheekha that the object is not related to the ANC. The local newspaper had then asked: “Now, the question is which agency has placed the object in the sky and why? If this object is not released by any agencies in Andaman then was it sent for spying? But in this age of ultra-advanced satellites, who would use a flying object to spy?”
More than a year later, indications, as per all these reports are that the balloon was Chinese and probably was over Indian airspace violating Indian sovereignty at a time that India and China were (and still are) engaged in a major standoff on the disputed border. It is not known if the government of India was able to identify the object or if it registered a diplomatic protest with the Chinese government.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Monday briefed nearly 150 foreign diplomats across 40 embassies, reports Reuters. This is likely to include India, but the Indian government has not issued any official statement on the subject so far. The US State Department has also sent to every US Embassy “detailed information” on the espionage that can be shared with allies and partners, as per the newspaper.