New Delhi, August 6
In an about-turn, the Sri Lankan government has requested the Chinese government to defer the visit of its research vessel Yuan Wang 5 at Hambantota port “until further consultations” are made on the matter.
The denial of permission reportedly came after India, Sri Lanka’s biggest benefactor in its current economic turmoil, let it be known that the vessel’s arrival would have security implications.
“We are aware of reports of a proposed visit by this vessel to Hambantota in August,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said last week when asked about the reports of a proposed visit by a Chinese vessel.
“The government carefully monitors any development having a bearing on India’s security and economic interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them,” he had said.
“I think that should be a clear message,” added Bagchi. He may be indicating India’s resolve to closely shadow the research vessel if after leaving Hambantota, it enters its exclusive economic zone without prior permission. This happened in September 2019 when Indian vessels harassed and forced a Chinese research vessel to leave in its EEZ near the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
In January last year, Indian vessels shadowed two Chinese survey vessels spotted near Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Yuan Wang 5, Chinese spacecraft tracking ship, left China on July 13 and was expected to dock at the port for a week from August 11 for ‘replenishment’ purposes before leaving for satellite control and research tracking in the Indian Ocean region till September-end.
“The Ministry wishes to request that the arrival date of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter,” said a statement from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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