Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Saturday said it has allowed a high-tech Chinese research ship to dock at the southern port of Hambantota from August 16 to August 22 for “replenishment purposes”. Colombo Asked Beijing to defer port calls amid India’s concern over the ship’s presence in its neighbourhood.
Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking shipyuan wang 5′, was earlier scheduled to arrive on Thursday and will remain at the port until 17 August for replenishment. However, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry last week requested the Chinese embassy here to postpone the vessel’s visit following security concerns raised by India. Subsequently, the ship did not land at Hambantota port on Thursday as planned.
In a statement, the foreign ministry said it has conveyed the government’s approval to the Chinese embassy here “for the postponed arrival of the ship from August 16-22”. “It is the intention of Sri Lanka to protect the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with their international obligations,” the statement said.
Giving details of the sequence of events, the ministry said that on June 28, China informed the government that ‘Yuan Wang 5’ would pay a port call in Hambantota from August 11-17 for replenishment purposes. “While there was no rotation of personnel during the call, the Government of Sri Lanka was requested to provide necessary assistance and positive consideration on the request,” it said.
After obtaining a security clearance from the Ministry of Defense on 7 July and a no-objection letter from the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL), “for use of frequencies and communication equipment subject to non-interference and non-protection grounds”, the Ministry of External Affairs approved the ship. Allowed to call a port in Hambantota for replenishment purposes. “The following situations were highlighted Ministry of Defence It was also stated that – within the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of Sri Lanka, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is to be kept operational and no scientific research is to be conducted in Sri Lankan waters,” the statement said.
“Later, in light of certain concerns raised with the Ministry,” the government requested the Chinese embassy on 5 August to postpone the ship’s voyage to Hambantota port “until the conduct of further consultations on the matter”. .
Since then the Government has been engaged in extensive consultations at the high level through diplomatic channels to resolve the matter in the spirit of friendship, mutual trust and constructive dialogue, taking into account the interests of all concerned, and sovereign equality of the States. In line with the principle of, the statement said.
On 12 August, the Chinese embassy applied for approval for new dates – from 16 August to 22 August – “for ship replenishment purposes”.
“After considering all material,” the statement said, the Chinese embassy was “approved for the postponed arrival of the ship from August 16-22.” The ship was awaiting clearance to enter from its location 600 nautical miles east of Hambantota.
Meanwhile, the case caused much controversy in the island nation, with the opposition blaming the government for its mishandling of the issue. The southern deep sea port of Hambantota is considered strategically important for its location. The port has been largely developed with Chinese loans.
India has said that it carefully monitors any developments that affect its security and economic interests. New Delhi is concerned about the possibility that the ship’s tracking systems may be attempting to spy on Indian installations en route to the Sri Lankan port.
India has traditionally taken a tough stand on Chinese military ships in the Indian Ocean and has opposed such visits with Sri Lanka in the past.
Relations between India and Sri Lanka were strained in 2014 after Colombo allowed a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock in one of its ports. India’s concerns have been particularly focused on the Hambantota port. In 2017, Colombo leased the southern port to China Merchant Port Holdings for 99 years after Sri Lanka was unable to meet its debt repayment commitments, fueling fears over the port’s potential use for military purposes.
On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was “completely inappropriate for some countries to put pressure on Sri Lanka, citing so-called “security concerns”.
India on Friday rejected China’s “objection” that New Delhi pressured Colombo against the planned visit of the Chinese research vessel, but said it would take a decision based on its own security concerns.
foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi Said Sri Lanka, as a sovereign country, takes its own independent decisions and added that India will take its own decision on its security concerns based on the prevailing situation in the region, particularly in the border areas.
China is Sri Lanka’s main creditor with investments in infrastructure. Debt restructuring of Chinese loans will be critical to the island’s success in ongoing negotiations with International Monetary Fund for a bailout.
India, on the other hand, has been Sri Lanka’s lifeline in the current economic crisis. It has been at the forefront of providing nearly $4 billion in funding to Sri Lanka during the year as the island nation grapples.