The US has voiced its concern to Sri Lanka regarding a research vessel of China most likely to dock in the island country next month, a development India finds concerning, too.
Per media reports, Victoria Nuland, the US Under Secretary, who met Ali Sabry, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, in New York on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session, raised several concerns regarding the future visit of Shi Yan 6.
In 2022, India reportedly objected to one of China’s vessels docking in Sri Lanka’s port of Hambantota.
But the main question is, why is this ship visiting Sri Lanka? Why is India opposing that? What happened in similar situations before?
Per the AFP, CGTN mentioned that the Shi Yan 6 is an advanced scientific research vessel. It has a 60-member crew specialising in oceanography, marine ecology, and marine geology tests.
Beijing had asked for permission from Colombo to dock the vessel last month. However, the final date and port haven’t been decided.
PTI further reported that the research vessel is expected in the above-mentioned island country in October to research with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (known as NARA).
Why is India objecting to China’s vessels docking in Sri Lanka?
India considers China’s vessels docked in such proximity to the mainland a significant security threat and also suspects they can be used for snooping, even when the aim is merely scientific research.
Earlier this year, the US shot down what it referred to as a Chinese spy balloon floating over its territory, while Beijing said it was a weather balloon.
What happened in 2022?
India raised its objections to a ballistic missile and satellite tracking vessel belonging to China at the Hambantota port on the southern coast of Sri Lanka for a week. While Sri Lanka had reached out to China to postpone the hi-tech vessel’s arrival following India’s concerns, it later made a U-turn and permitted the docking.
The vessel, dubbed Yuan Wang 5, is used for tracking rocket, satellite, and intercontinental ballistic missile (popular as ICBM) launches.
India feared that Yuan Wang 5’s aerial reach — approximately 750 km — would indicate several ports in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh would be on China’s radar, and several key installations all over south India could be snooped upon.
China had insisted that the marine scientific research activities of the Yuan Wang 5 are consistent with international law and common practice. They do not impact the security and/or the economic interests of the country and shouldn’t be hindered by third parties.
Before this Yuan Wang 5 row, India and Sri Lanka’s ties had come under strain regarding Colombo permitting a nuclear-powered submarine belonging to China to dock at one of the ports back in 2014.
How has Sri Lanka been reacting to the US comments?
After Nuland raised concerns, per PTI, Sabry informed her that as a neutral nation, Sri Lanka has tried to work out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed by foreign vessels and aircraft executing activities in the territory. As part of the even-handed approach, they couldn’t exclude China.
References: Indian Express, Times Of India
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