The Indian Navy on Tuesday tweeted a “warm welcome” to three Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, effectively and humorously conveying its strong presence in the Indian Ocean and close tracking of Chinese vessels in the region.

“Happy hunting”, the navy said in a tweet were posted with photos of the Chinese anti-piracy vessels which, according to the website of China’s PLA or People’s Liberation Army, have 700 soldiers and two helicopters on board. An official said the posts were a message that China’s moves are being watched, reported NDTV.

The Navy also said its 50 ships were on constant vigil to keep its AOR (Area of Responsibility) safe. It tweeted a map to drive home the constant surveillance of Indian warships in the region.

The 29th Fleet from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) left the Chinese port of Zhoushan on April 4 for the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy missions off the Somali coast. They entered the Indian Ocean through the straits of Ombai Wetar in Indonesia.

According to the navy, China has used anti-piracy patrols and freedom of navigation as the reasons for its increasing presence in the Indian Ocean.

Besides ships, the navy is amping up its surveillance using long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, the Boeing-made Poseidon 8I planes, which fly sorties, sometimes up to the South China Sea, almost every day.

Currently, the Indian Air Force is rehearsing wartime manoeuvres over the region under Exercise Gaganshakti 2018.

While the Ministry of Defence has been saying said that they were closely monitoring the region, this is probably the first time that the forces have sent out a direct message.

The powerful messaging comes just months after Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba gave a clear indication that Indian Navy was ready to play a bigger role including under the proposed quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Australia and Japan and confirmed that India has kick-started an ambitious project to build six nuclear-powered attack submarines that is expected to boost the Navy’s overall strike capabilities, said a report in News 18. The development was seen amidst China’s naval build-up and increasing military manoeuvring in the Indo-Pacific region.

Under the Navy’s ‘Mission Based Deployment,’ a fleet of 50 of its combat-ready warships is presently deployed in the IOR – including in the Strait of Malacca – which enables India to carry out round-the-clock surveillance, said a report in The Times of India (TOI).

In an exclusive interview to TOI in February, Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba confirmed that there has been a noticeable increase in the deployment of Chinese submarines and research vessels in the IOR.

“While the early Chinese deployments were projected as anti-piracy deployments, the setting up of bases and the increasing presence of their flotilla have implications for the regional security environment,” Lanba told TOI.