Tension between India and China over a port in Sri Lanka

New Delhi has expressed concern over the visit of a Chinese survey vessel to a strategic port in Sri Lanka, India’s southern neighbor.

New Delhi fears that the Hambantota port, built and leased by China, could be used by Beijing as a military base in India’s backyard. The $1.5 billion port is close to major shipping routes connecting Asia to Europe.

Navigation data from Refinitiv Eikon showed that The research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 was en route to Hambantota and was scheduled to arrive on August 11, at a time when Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis.

The Yuan Wang 5 will be a dual-purpose spy ship, with specific uses in space and satellite tracking and intercontinental ballistic missile launch., according to CNN-News18. India fears the ship’s arrival in Sri Lanka due to the strong possibility that it will be equipped with high-tech listening equipment to scrutinize Indian territory.

At a weekly briefing on July 29, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said the government was monitoring the planned visit by the Chinese ship, adding that New Delhi would protect its security and economic interests.

Sri Lanka has reportedly asked China to delay the arrival of its ships after India raised concerns over the matter. real purpose” of this trip.

The Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-purpose spy ship, with specific uses in space and satellite tracking and intercontinental ballistic missile launch. It is a third-generation tracking vessel of the Yuan Wang series, which entered service on September 29, 2007, and was designed by China’s 708 Research Institute.

The vessel in question is scheduled to reach Hambantota port on August 11 and stay there till August 17. Sri Lanka received requests for fuel and other supplies during the stay.

According to the information received, After this location, Yuan Wang 5 will move to the Indian Ocean for further research such as space tracking and monitoring satellite operations.

In a letter seen by CNN-News 18, Sri Lankan authorities asked for a delay in the ship’s arrival. “Until further discussion”. nevertheless, The Sri Lankan ministry “uses this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo, the assurance of its highest consideration”.

The Global Times newspaper dismissed the ship’s mooring at Hambantota as “massive”, saying it would be a regular port and that the Sri Lankan defense force had already cleared the request.

Tian Shichen, founder of the Global Governance Institution and director of the International Center for Military Operations Law, told the Global Times that the Yuan Wang 5 was not a military vessel but a research vessel.

“Even if it is a military ship, it is normal that the stopover port is in accordance with the laws of the hosting country”, he declared. Chinese experts described the stopover as a favor to Sri Lanka, which could win “something” Foreign currency helps fuel and stock up ships.

Liu Xiaoxu, a research associate at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that Hambantota Mission, a commercial port operated by a Chinese company, serving ships of any country.

“Now Sri Lanka is facing an economic crisis, and a port like Hambantota needs more ships to make more calls to generate revenue and dollars for the Sri Lankan government.”

beside him, Sri Lanka’s defense ministry also noted that the visit was “not unusual” with ships from countries such as India, Japan and Australia periodically requesting it.Indian media The Hindu reported.

India has already made a verbal protest to the Sri Lankan government against the ship’s visit, Reuters reported.

A Sri Lankan consulting firm, Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka stated on their website that Yuan Wang 5 “In August and September will conduct space tracking, satellite control and research activities in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean region.”

Sri Lanka officially handed over commercial operations at its main southern port to a Chinese company, China Merchant Port Holdings, in 2017 after struggling to service debts.

Despite the economic difficulties plaguing Sri Lanka, the port’s dry bulk cargo grew by 1.5% year-on-year in the first five months of 2022. The Hambantota port also facilitated the transportation of 5,000 tonnes of oil to the fuel-starved country.

China is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest lenders and has also financed the airport, roads and railways, worrying India, which is now trying to recover lost ground.

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