India on Friday rejected Beijing’s claims that it put pressure on Sri Lanka to not allow Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5 to dock at the island nation’s Hambantota port.

“We reject the insinuations in the statement about India,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a press breiefing. “Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions.”

On August 8, without naming India, China had said that it was completely unjustified for other countries to pressurise Sri Lanka citing security concerns and grossly interfere in its internal affairs.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin had said that the island nation has the right to develop relations with other countries based on its development interests.

This was after media reports claimed that New Delhi had raised security concerns about the docking of the vessel in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port between August 11 and August 17. The reports claimed that India had asked Sri Lanka not to allow the Chinese vessel in its ports.

Subsequently, Sri Lanka urged China to indefinitely defer the vessel’s visit. The island nation had initially permitted China to dock the tracking and survey vessel for refuelling on July 12, according to The Indian Express.

India’s concerns about the Hambantota port are not new. In 2017, Colombo leased the port to China Merchant Port Holdings for 99 years, after Sri Lanka was unable to keep its loan repayment commitments, fanning fears over the potential use of the port for Beijing’s military purposes.

On Friday, Bagchi said that New Delhi has always emphasised on the need for “mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interests” as a basis for development of ties between India and China.

“With regard to our security concerns, this is the sovereign right of every country,” he said. “We will make the best judgment in our own interest. This naturally takes into account the prevailing situation in our region, especially in the border areas.”

India and China have been locked in a border standoff since their troops clashed in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh in June 2020. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. China had put the number of casualties on its side at four.