AFP – Sri Lanka granted port access yesterday for a controversial Chinese research vessel despite neighbouring India’s concerns that it could spy on New Delhi’s military installations, officials said.
The Yuan Wang 5 is described as a research and survey vessel by international shipping and analytics sites, but according to Indian media it is a dual-use spy ship.
New Delhi is suspicious of Beijing’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and influence in Sri Lanka, seeing both as being firmly within its sphere of influence.
The Yuan Wang 5 was originally due to call at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-run Hambantota port on August 11, only for Colombo to ask Beijing to indefinitely defer the visit following India’s objections. But Sri Lanka’s harbour master, Nirmal P Silva, said he had received Foreign Ministry clearance for the ship to call at Hambantota from August 16 to 22.
“The diplomatic clearance was received by me today. We will work with the local agent appointed by the vessel to ensure logistics at the port,” Silva told AFP.
Foreign Ministry sources confirmed that Colombo had renewed permission for the Chinese visit, which had initially been granted on July 12, a day before then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled following months of protests over the country’s worst-ever economic crisis.