A controversial Chinese research ship will dock in Sri Lanka

A controversial Chinese research ship will dock in Sri Lanka
Source: The Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL)

Right now, Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented financial crisis – its worst since it gained independence in 1948. The country’s neighbor, India, has been helping Sri Lanka more than any other nation. Because of the crisis, massive protests caused former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country for Singapore and ultimately resign. Already in debt to China, Sri Lanka leased its Hambantota port to China back in 2017. So, China and India are both really economically influential to Sri Lanka right now.

On Saturday, Sri Lanka announced that it had given China permission to dock survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 in its waters. The ship is expected to arrive at the Hambantota port on August 16. India and the US have warned against this move over security concerns, with Indian media even referring to it as a “dual-use spy ship.” Foreign security analysts describe the vessel as a space-tracking ship that can monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches. So with the ship’s extensive capabilities, India is voicing fears that China could start using the port as a military base. But, on Friday, it dismissed claims that it was pressuring Sri Lanka to turn the ship away.

Key comments:

“The Yuan Wang 5 visit should be welcomed by Sri Lanka as it can also build enthusiasm among the Sri Lankan youth to learn about modern space programs,” wrote the Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka (BRISL) website. “China’s space program is developing at a rapid phase and its possible to predict that in the future Chinese Space Program to reach even greater levels, Sri Lanka as a developing nation can absorb a lot of opportunities and knowledge which could help build its own space program.”

“We reject categorically the ‘insinuation’ and such statement about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions,” said Arindam Bagchi, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman, about whether or not India was pressuring Sri Lanka to reject Yuan Wang 5.

“China hopes that the relevant parties will view and report on China’s marine scientific research activities correctly and refrain from interfering with normal and legitimate maritime activities,” said the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement to Reuters.