Beijing: China has obtained approval to explore a 10,000 sq km polymetallic sulphide ore deposit in an international seabed region in the Indian Ocean, much to the disquiet of India.

The China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association in a statement last night said its application for the exploration of the southwest Indian Ocean region was recently approved by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

Following the approval, the association will sign a 15-year exploration contract with the ISA later this year, adding that China will enjoy pre-emptive rights to develop the ore deposit in the future.

China had also obtained exclusive rights to prospect in a 75,000-square-km polymetallic nodule ore deposit in the east Pacific Ocean in 2001, according to reports.

The move has already raised concerns in India with reports stating that Directorate of Naval Intelligence (DNI) has expressed concern to 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.

Apparently in preparation for this, China has stepped up its experiments with first manned deep sea submersible in the Pacific Ocean which currently touched 5,180 meters with three people aboard on Tuesday.

According to State Oceanic Administration (SOA), the submersible named Jiaolong has conducted four dives in the Pacific Ocean since July 21.

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 May 31 and July 18 last year, reaching 3,759 meters during its deepest dive.

China is the fifth country to send a man 3,500 meters below sea level, following the United States, France, Russia and Japan.

Meanwhile, in another bid to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean region, China has made a "big donation" to the eighth edition of the Indian Ocean Islands Games that will kick off in Seychelles on August 4.

The sponsorship from the Guandong People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, was made through the Chinese embassy in Seychelles at a ceremony held on Thursday at the Roche Caiman sports complex in the southern suburb of Victoria, capital of the Seychelles, reports said.

The donation which was accepted by Seychelles consisted of equipment worth USD thee lakhs.

With this donation China becomes the biggest single sponsor of the Indian Ocean Islands Games. The sponsorship includes LCD screens, laptop computers and T-shirts, the news agency reported.

The Indian Ocean Islands Games is the largest sports event regrouping the islands of the southwest Indian Ocean regions, namely the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion, Mayotte and Seychelles.

It is the second time in 18 years that Seychelles hosts the Indian Ocean Islands Games.

The sports event that will end on August 14 is expected to attract some 2,000 athletes from these islands.