Chinese spy ship reaches Lanka

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Chinese vessel ‘Yuan Wang-5’ is widely believed to be a spy ship. It was given clearance to arrive on Sri Lanka port last week…reports Asian Lite News

A Chinese research vessel – widely tagged as a spy ship – reached Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port on Tuesday morning, reports said, amid concerns in India. The vessel – Yuan Wang-5 – was give clearance to arrive at the Sri Lanka port over the weekend. Yuan Wang-5 is used by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and ballistic missiles. The ship is said to have some 2,000 sailors aboard.

“Having considered all material in place, on 13 August 2022, the clearance to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China was conveyed for the deferred arrival of the vessel from 16-22 August 2022,” Sri Lanka’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

The Hambantota Port has been taken by China on a debt swap by China on a 99-year-lease. It’s considered to be strategically important because of its location.

The arrival of the vessel in debt-ridden Sri Lanka – which was initially expected on August 11 – comes after the island nation had asked Beijing earlier this month to defer the entry. This was, however, followed by a sharp reaction from China, which said that it was “completely unjustified” for certain countries to cite the so-called “security concerns” to pressure Colombo and “grossly interfere” in its internal affairs. Beijing had said it had sought new entry dates “for replenishment purposes of the vessel”.

However, external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi gave a sharp response over Beijing’s comment. “We reject the insinuations in the statement about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions,” Bagchi had said.

“As regards India-China relations, we have consistently emphasised the necessity of mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests as a basis for the development of ties.”

Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at South Asian University, Dhananjay Tripathi says: “Sri Lanka is caught in a quandary. It cannot refuse China because it is under a pile of debt. Also, by giving a nod to the entry of the ship we can see that there is a strong Chinese influence in the current administration”.

Tripathi says that there will also be a section in India’s neighbouring countries that will be anti-India. “We have a section that opposes India in Sri Lanka as well. But I feel that India should ignore such voices. Over time these voices will get neutralised”. Many anti-India sentiments are driven by personal political agendas as well external forces, he added.

India has, largely, been the only country to have come to Sri Lanka’s aid since the beginning of this year with nearly $4 billion in lines of credit (LoC) and humanitarian aid. Colombo’s repeated requests for help went unheard in Beijing.

Regarding the comments made by the outspoken Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, Tripathi says: “It is very cunning of China to use a third country to spy on India. If Sri Lanka is a sovereign country with the right to develop relations with other countries, India too is a sovereign State with a genuine right to express its concerns over the arrival of a spy ship”.

India had last week asked Sri Lanka to defer the ‘Yuan Wang 5’ research ship’s docking at the commercial port of Hambantota over fears that the ship will be detrimental to India’s defence and economic interests in the Indian Ocean region.

Military experts say that the ship is one of China’s latest space-tracking ships which can monitor satellites, missiles and rockets, and hence India’s concerns.

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