A Chinese ship arrived at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on Tuesday morning despite security concerns raised by India that it could spy on New Delhi’s military installations, AFP reported.
International shipping and analytics websites describe the Yuan Wang 5 as a research and survey vessel, but Indian media reports claim that it is a dual-use spy ship.
The ship was initially due to arrive at the Chinese-built and leased Hambantota port on August 11, but Sri Lanka had asked Beijing to defer the visit. However, on August 13, Sri Lanka granted permission for the vessel to dock at the island from August 16 to August 22.
On Tuesday, Hambantota port officials said that the ship was allowed to visit the island on the condition that it will not carry out any research while in Sri Lankan waters, according to AFP.
While New Delhi did not express its objections on the matter publicly, the foreign ministry on July 28 had said the “government carefully monitors any development having a bearing on India’s security and economic interests”.
On August 8, without naming India, China had said that it was “completely unjustified” for other countries to pressurise Sri Lanka and “grossly interfere” in its internal affairs. Days later, India rejected China’s “insinuations” that it has put pressure on Sri Lanka to turn the vessel away.
While granting permission to the ship, Sri Lanka had said that the security clearance was given to the vessel for “replenishment purposes”, PTI reported.
“The security and cooperation in the neighbourhood are of utmost priority in handling the issue of the Chinese vessel Wang Yang 5,” its foreign ministry had said in a statement.
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.