Chinese space research and satellite tracking vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ will visit Hambantota port from August 11 to 17.
A high-tech Chinese research vessel, which is expected to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port next week, is only looking for “refueling and resupply” facilities and Colombo will do nothing to damage the existing good understanding and trust with New Delhi, a senior minister has said. has said.
The Chinese space research and satellite tracking vessel ‘Yuan Wang 5’ will visit Hambantota port from August 11-17, weeks after Sri Lanka witnessed a major political upheaval following mass protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
India’s defense and security establishment has said it will closely monitor the planned visit of the Chinese ship.
New Delhi is concerned that the ship’s tracking systems may attempt to spy on Indian installations as it made its way to the Sri Lankan port.
The Foreign Ministry has said India carefully monitors any development that has a bearing on its security and economic interests.
In Colombo, Bandula Gunawardena, cabinet spokesman, and information minister said Friday that the purpose of the Chinese ship was “just to refuel and resupply other facilities and supplies,” according to the Daily Mirror newspaper.
“The ship or its crew members will not be involved in any internal affairs or business in Sri Lanka,” Gunawardena was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
“China and India have always helped Sri Lanka domestically and in international forums as true friends. Therefore, Sri Lanka would not do anything to damage the good understanding and trust that exists between the two countries,” he said.
Foreign Minister Ali Sabry briefed both countries at the diplomatic level on this issue, he added.
Ties between India and Sri Lanka were strained after Colombo gave permission for a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock at one of its ports in 2014.
India is understood to have already informed Sri Lanka about its concerns over the proposed visit of the Chinese vessel to the Hambantota port.
According to a media report here, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry told the Chinese embassy in Colombo not to proceed with the visit of the research vessel until further consultations are held on the issue.
However, there is no official confirmation on the matter.
India has traditionally taken a stern view of Chinese military vessels in the Indian Ocean and has protested such visits to Sri Lanka in the past.
New Delhi’s concerns have focused on the Hambantota port in particular.
In 2017, Colombo leased the southern port to China Merchant Port Holdings after Sri Lanka failed to meet its loan repayment commitments, stoking fears about the possible use of the port for military purposes.
The proposed ship visit comes as Sri Lanka is grappling with a severe economic crisis.
India has been at the forefront of extending economic assistance to Sri Lanka as it faces the worst economic crisis since 1948.
The southern deepwater port of Hambantota is considered strategically important because of its location.
It has been developed largely with Chinese loans.