Chinese Research Vessel to Hambantota?
India on Thursday said it was aware of reports about the planned visit of a Chinese vessel to a Sri Lankan port built with money from Beijing.
However, according to The Hindu website, Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry has denied reports that a Chinese research vessel would enter the Hambantota Port in August this year.
The Hindu said that the Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka, a Colombo-based organization studying China’s ambitious connectivity project, on its website said that the research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 which set sail from the Chinese port of Jiangyin on July 13, is now in the East China Sea, and was expected to dock in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port from August 11-17 for ‘replenishment’ while it continues to conduct Space and Satellite control and research activities in the north-western part of the Indian Ocean Region.
India's foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a weekly media briefing "The government carefully monitors any developments having a bearing on India's security and economic interests, and takes all necessary measures to safeguard them," I
He also said, "I think that should be a clear message."
The Hindu quoted a spokesperson from Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry who denied reports that a Chinese research vessel involved in space and satellite tracking would enter the Hambantota port in August this year, even as India sent a “clear message” that it was monitoring the ship’s progress “carefully”.
A Defence Ministry spokesman told The Hindu in Colombo “We have no confirmation of such a vessel calling at the Hambantota port,”
India has long been worried about dual-use facilities of Chinese infrastructure projects spanning Myanmar to Eastern African states in what comes as a direct challenge to New Delhi's interests.
This is the first time since 2014 that such a Chinese naval vessel is visiting Lanka. In 2014, a Chinese submarine had docked at Colombo drawing India's ire and the matter was raised at the highest level.