In the past few years, China’s PLA-Navy has increased its activities in the Indian Ocean, the region primarily dominated by the Indian Navy so far. In 2020, the Indian Navy chased away a Chinese research vessel after it came near India’s strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Sri Lanka has asked the Chinese government to de-fer the visit of its research vessel Yuan Wang 5 at the Hambantota port until there have been “further consultations” on the matter.
In the letter, viewed by Sputnik, the Sri Lankan government acknowledged that it had granted clearance on 12 July – a day before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Singapore – for the vessel’s “to enter the Port of Hambantota for the replenishment purposes”.
“The Ministry of For-eign Affairs of the Demo-cratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo, the assurances of its highest consideration,” the letter read.
Sri Lankan minister Bandula Gunawardana said that neither the ship nor crew members would be involved in any internal affairs or business in Sri Lanka.
“China and India have always helped Sri Lanka domestically and in the international forums as true friends. Therefore, Sri Lanka would not do anything to harm the good understanding and trust existing between the two countries for millennia,” Gunawardana stressed.
On Saturday, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Ali Sabry briefed India and China at diplomatic levels about the situation that developed with the research ship’s intended visit on 11 August.
The development comes after India raised concerns about the ship’s visit.
“The government carefully monitors any development having a bearing on India’s security and economic interests and takes all necessary measures to safeguard these. I think that should be a clear message,” Arindam Bagchi, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, said last week.
India has furnished $3.9Bln in different forms to Sri Lanka – an island nation of 22 million people who defaulted on foreign debt and faces unprecedented fuel and food shortages. China has also provided food and medical supplies in times of crisis.
The economic crisis was primarily attributed by opposition forces to ineffective government policies and foreign exchange shortages caused by a clampdown on tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The foreign exchange crisis led to protests lasting months, resulting in the removal of the entire Rajapaksa family members from power. Gotabaya Rajapaksa resigned from the post of president on 15 July after he fled to Singapore via the Maldives.