A day after India stated that it closely monitors any development that may have an impact on its security and economic interests, Sri Lanka said on Sunday that it has permitted a Chinese research vessel to berth at the Hambantota port next month.
Due to its position, the southern deep-sea port of Hambantota is regarded as strategically significant. The port, which is situated near the Rajapaksa family’s hometown, was substantially expanded with Chinese funds.
When asked about reports that the Chinese spacecraft tracking ship “Yuan Wang 5” may dock at the Hambantota port, Colonel Nalin Herath of the Sri Lankan Army responded that Sri Lanka routinely grants clearance for commercial and military ships from many nations to go past and also enter Sri Lankan waters.
According to Herath, “We have authorised and cleared the Chinese ships in that regard.”
The Yuan Wang 5 will conduct satellite control and research tracking in the northwestern section of the Indian Ocean region during August and September after docking in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for “replenishment” from August 11 to 17.
According to India, it carefully monitors every development that could have an impact on its economic and security interests. When asked about the reports of a proposed visit by a Chinese warship, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi responded in New Delhi, “We are aware of reports of a proposed visit by this vessel to Hambantota in August.
The government takes all necessary steps to protect India’s security and economic interests and carefully monitors any development that could have an impact on them, he said on Thursday.
The TNA, the biggest Tamil minority party in Sri Lanka, stated on Sunday that India would have a genuine defence concern as a result of China’s military presence in the Indian Ocean and that Colombo should not exacerbate it by allowing room for Chinese military deployment.
“Tensions in the area have increased once more as a result of the Chinese spacecraft tracking ship Yuan Wang 5 entering the Hambantota Harbour on August 11. We don’t support any side in rivalries for dominance among other nations, the TNA declared in a statement.
The visit of Yuan Wang-5 to Hambantota port will provide Sri Lanka and the other developing countries in the region with a fantastic opportunity to learn and advance their own space programmes, according to BRISL (Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka), a Colombo-based organisation researching China’s expansive connectivity project.
India has historically viewed Chinese military warships in the Indian Ocean with scepticism and has previously objected to such engagements with Sri Lanka.
India is particularly worried about the port of Hambantota. After Sri Lanka failed to meet its debt repayment obligations in 2017, Colombo leased the southern port to China Merchant Port Holdings, raising concerns about the port’s potential use for military purposes.
The vessel’s intended visit occurs as Sri Lanka battles a severe economic crisis.
As Sri Lanka struggles with the greatest economic crisis since 1948, India has been at the forefront of providing financial aid.
India this week declared that it will continue to support the island nation and its people in their pursuit of peace and prosperity as the new Sri Lankan president attempts to get the country out of its economic crisis.