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Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry clears docking of Chinese ‘research’ ship

Will operate for nearly three months in the east Indian Ocean region

Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry clears docking of Chinese ‘research’ ship

Photo used for representational purpose only. Photo Credit: X/@NewsIADN



Tribune News Service

Sandeep Dikshit

New Delhi, September 18

After over a year, another Chinese ocean research vessel has been cleared by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence to dock in the country. The ship, which will likely dock at Colombo, will operate for nearly three months in the east Indian Ocean region.

Chinese “research ships” usually have dual purposes – the primary aim is to scientific exploration but what raises the hackles of other countries is the geopolitical purposes for which they are also deployed. In case of Shi Yan 6, a Chinese statement said the ship will help “strengthen scientific research cooperation and exchanges with countries along the Maritime Silk Road and further realise the integration of science and education for the Belt and Road Initiative.”

The ship, “Shi Yan 6” will arrive at Sri Lanka a year after another research ship “Yuan Wang 5” had docked at Hambantota port in August last year. Following the security concerns raised by India and the US, Sri Lanka allowed it to dock but asked it tokeep the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and not conduct any scientific research. The docking had led to a war of words between Indian and Chinese diplomats.

Subsequently, Sri Lanka said it was finalising a “standard operating procedure” for future port calls by foreign research vessels and military craft but it is not known whether the SOP has been finalised or if restrictions, like last time, will be imposed on the Chinese vessel.

Chinese “research ships” have been at the centre of recent maritime confrontations with Vietnam and Taiwan.In May, it was a Chinese research ship Xiang Yang Hong 10 that led the flotilla of five other vessels which entered Vietnam's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A similar strategy is at play in the waters around Taiwan.

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