Chinese ‘spy ship’ docking: Beijing seeks urgent meeting with Lankan authorities after request to defer plans

NEW DELHI: The to-and-fro between Colombo and Beijing continues over the possibility of a Chinese ‘spy ship’ docking at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port.
In the latest, China’s Colombo embassy has sought an urgent meeting with senior authorities in the island nation after Colombo sought an indefinite deferment of the planned docking of the ship.
India had shared its concerns with Sri Lanka about the Chinese space and satellite tracking research vessel Yuan Wang 5’s scheduled docking at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17.

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry, in a note to the Chinese embassy dated August 5, said “the ministry wishes to request that the arrival of the vessel Yuan Wang 5 in Hambantota to be deferred until further consultations are made on the matter.”
Some Sri Lankan news portals also reported that President Ranil Wickremesinghe held a closed-door meeting with China’s Ambassador Qi Zhenhong after Colombo sought a deferment of the planned docking. But the President’s Office denied the reports.
The previous Sri Lanka government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa approved the Chinese vessel’s docking on July 12, just hours before he fled the country for Maldives. At the time, Sri Lanka had said the Chinese vessel will dock for “refuelling and replenishment.”
However India protested the approval granted to the Chinese ship with Sri Lanka, citing threat to its national security. The Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-use spy, research and survey vessel which is employed for space and satellite tracking and with specific usage in intercontinental ballistic missile launches, according to reports.
India said it carefully monitors any development having a bearing on its security and economic interests. New Delhi is concerned about the possibility of the ship’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.
The vessel is in control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) under its Strategic Support Force(SSF) unit. The SSF focuses on space, cyber, and electronic warfare.
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena last week said the country was looking forward to settle the issue with an “approach of friendship”.
India has traditionally taken a stern view of Chinese military vessels in the Indian Ocean and has protested such visits with Sri Lanka in the past.
The ties between India and Sri Lanka had come under strain after Colombo gave permission to a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock in one of its ports in 2014.
India’s concerns have been focused on Hambantota port in particular. In 2017, Colombo leased the southern port to a Chinese company for 99 years, after Sri Lanka was unable to keep its loan repayment commitments, fanning fears over the potential use of the port for military purposes.
(With agency inputs)

Leave a Comment