Sri Lanka gives nod for docking of Chinese 'research' ship at Hambantota port on August 16

According to Indian reports, the Yuan Wang 5 could be employed for space and satellite tracking and has specific uses in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
Hambantota port in south Sri Lanka. (File photo)
Hambantota port in south Sri Lanka. (File photo)

NEW DELHI: In a U-turn, Sri Lanka has allowed the Chinese vessel Yuan Wang 5 to dock at the Hambantota Port from August 16 to 22. The Sri Lankan government said on Saturday it had allowed the high-tech Chinese research ship to dock at the southern port for “replenishment purposes,” days after Colombo asked Beijing to defer the port call amidst India’s concern over the vessel’s presence in its neighbourhood. The Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship, Yuan Wang 5, was earlier scheduled to arrive on Thursday and remain at the port until August 17.

However, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry requested the Chinese embassy in Colombo last week to postpone the vessel’s visit following security concerns raised by India. On August 12, the Chinese embassy applied for clearance for the new dates — August 16 to 22 — “for replenishment purposes”.

“This permission came from the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs today, after days of delaying giving them permission to dock. The Chinese had begun to allege that India was behind Sri Lanka’s delay in granting permission for the vessel to dock -which is being viewed as a surveillance vessel. The vessel is about 900 km away from Hambantota

and is slowly moving towards the port,” sources said. India had objected to the allegation that they were behind the delay in giving permission to the Chinese vessel to dock. “We reject such insinuations and statements being made about India,” said a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. “This China-India standoff is a challenge for a country like Sri Lanka that’s bankrupt. While India is our neighbour, China is our biggest lender. We are caught in a jam,” sources in Colombo said.

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The New Indian Express