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Chinese navy ship arrives at Sri Lanka port amid security concerns by India

06:26 17 August 2022 Author :  

A Chinese navy vessel has arrived at a Beijing-built port in southern Sri Lanka, after its port call was earlier delayed due to security concerns raised by India.

The Yuan Wang 5 sailed into the Hambantota port and was welcomed by Sri Lankan and Chinese officials on Tuesday.

The development could spark worry in India, which views China’s rising influence in the Indian Ocean with suspicion.

“The Yuan Wang 5 is a powerful tracking vessel whose significant aerial reach — reportedly around 750 kilometres — means that several ports in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh could be on China’s radar,” the Indian Express newspaper wrote.

The developments surrounding the vessel underscore the competing interests of regional giants India and China in the small island nation. 

For more than a decade, Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean and along one of the busiest shipping routes has seen both countries vie for influence.

Over the years, Beijing was widely seen as having an upper hand with its free-flowing loans and infrastructure investments. 

But Sri Lanka’s economic collapse proved an opportunity for India to gain greater sway, as New Delhi stepped in with massive financial and material assistance to its neighbour.

'Scientific research'

The ship has permission to dock in Hambantota until August 22, Sri Lanka's Foreign Ministry said last weekend. 

It added that China had agreed the ship would keep its identification systems on and would not carry out any research activities while in Sri Lankan waters.

Previous official Chinese media reports have described PLA officers serving in command positions aboard the vessels in the Yuan Wang class, which may also have civilians in their crews.

China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed concerns about the ship in a briefing Tuesday.

“I would like to reiterate that the marine scientific research conducted by the research ship Yuan Wang 5 conforms to international law and international common practice, and will not affect the security and economic interests of any country,” he said.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said last week that India was aware of the planned visit by the vessel and that it carefully monitors any development that affects its security and economic interests and would take all measures to safeguard them. 

He also dismissed claims last week that India put pressure on Sri Lanka to delay the ship.

Source: AP

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