New Delhi, August 16
India is concerned over the visit of a Chinese satellite tracking ship to Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port as it signals an attempt by China to expand its maritime influence in the region, sources in defence and security establishment said on Tuesday.
The ship, Yuan Wang 5, arrived at the strategically located port on Tuesday morning for a replenishment stay for a week, Sri Lankan officials said in Colombo.
However, sources in the Indian defence and security establishment said the aim of the ship’s visit cannot be only replenishment and that it could be used to snoop on Indian installations.
They said India has been conveying to Sri Lanka its opposition to such forays in the past as well and that India’s concerns were not limited to just one visit.
The ship was originally scheduled to arrive at the Hambantota port on August 11 but it was delayed in absence of permission by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Sri Lanka had asked China to defer the visit amid India’s concerns over it. On Saturday, Colombo granted the port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22.
There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the vessel’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations while on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
“We are closely watching the visit by the ship,” said a source.
A day before the ship docked in Hambantota port, India handed over to Sri Lanka a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft.
The aircraft would act as a force multiplier, enabling Sri Lanka to tackle challenges such as human and drug trafficking, smuggling and other organised forms of crime in its coastal waters more effectively, the Ministry of External Affairs said.
“Induction of the aircraft is timely in view of the current challenges to Sri Lanka’s maritime security,” it said.
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