- Yuan Wang 5 was welcomed by Sri Lankan port officials and Chinese officials at the Hambantota port.
- The ship’s arrival had been deferred due to apparent security concerns raised by India.
- Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said it was postponing the docking until August 22.
An apparent security concern expressed by India caused the port call of a Chinese scientific research ship to be postponed; however, the ship finally landed at a southern port in Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Chinese representatives from the ship firm and Sri Lankan port officials greeted Yuan Wang 5 at the Hambantota port.
The ship was initially scheduled to arrive on August 11, but Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry requested that the docking be delayed until after additional negotiations. Last Friday, the government said that the ship had been granted permission to port in Hambantota until August 22. It stated that while in Sri Lankan seas, the ship would have its identification systems activated and would not engage in any scientific activity.
Though it didn’t say who had brought up the concerns, Sri Lanka said that it was delaying the ship’s arrival due to them. The proximity of the ship to India’s southern borders and subsequent security worries are probably a role.
Sri Lanka received a maritime reconnaissance aircraft from India on Monday to bolster its maritime security. The aircraft will be operated by Sri Lankan navy and air force personnel who received their training in India, according to the Indian embassy. Indian soldiers will provide operational assistance.
“The aircraft would function as a force multiplier, enabling Sri Lanka to better address a number of issues like smuggling, other organised forms of crime, and human and drug trafficking in its coastal seas. Given the current threats to Sri Lanka’s marine security, the introduction of the aircraft is appropriate, according to the embassy.
Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, stated last week that India was aware of the vessel’s intended visit and that it closely follows any developments that could damage its security and economic interests and will take all necessary precautions to protect them.
As Sri Lanka is located along one of the busiest shipping routes in what India views as its strategic backyard, China has been seeking to increase its influence there.
India has sent the Indian Ocean nation critical aid, including food, fuel, medicines, and cooking gas, as it battles an economic collapse and a dire foreign exchange crisis. At the same time, for Sri Lanka to be able to come to a bailout arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, China’s consent to restructure its infrastructure loans to Sri Lanka is crucial.
China has provided Sri Lanka with billions of dollars in loans for development projects, some of which have come under fire for being largely theoretical. Among them is the port of Hambantota, which Sri Lanka leased to China in 2017 as a result of its inability to repay the loan.
According to foreign affairs researcher Ranga Kalansooriya, Sri Lanka is playing with two fires diplomatically because of the geopolitical dynamics in the region and its severe economic fragility.
While stating that Sri Lanka cannot ignore either of the regional powers, he added that President Ranil Wickremesinghe is charged with both saving the nation’s economy and upholding diplomatic harmony.
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