IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th August, 2022 International Relations

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  • Sri Lanka approved the arrival of a Chinese satellite-tracking vessel to its southern Chinese-funded Hambantota port.
  • It was the second approval from the island nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after it first cleared the visit on July 12.
  • In the weeks in between, India raised concerns over the ship’s visit with President Ranil Wickremesinghe, and officially commented on it, while Indian media splashed headlines of a “Chinese spy ship” hovering in the Indian Ocean.
  • Caught in a delicate diplomatic and geopolitical spot, Colombo gave its nod after “extensive consultations” with “all parties”.


What is the vessel?

  • Yuan Wang 5 was described by the Sri Lankan government as a “scientific research ship”.
  • The BRISL (Belt & Road Initiative Sri Lanka), a Colombo-based organisation studying China’s ambitious connectivity project, was the first to draw attention to the visit in a Twitter post late July.
  • It said that the Yuan Wang 5 will conduct “satellite control and research tracking in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean Region” through August and September.
  • Vessels of the Yuan Wang class are said to be used for tracking and supporting satellite as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles by the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force.

How have different countries reacted?

  • India has expressed its concern over the Chinese vessel visit. The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs commented twice on the issue.
  • Addressing the weekly media conference in New Delhi, the official initially stated that India “carefully monitors any development having a bearing on its security and economic interests” and later said that they were “rejecting insinuations” that Sri Lanka was “pressured”.
  • China reacted strongly after Sri Lanka, following concerns voiced by India, requested China to defer the visit of the vessel “in light of the need for further consultations”.
  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “I have noted relevant reports and would like to stress two points.
  • First, Sri Lanka is a transportation hub in the Indian Ocean. Scientific research vessels from various countries including China have made port calls in Sri Lanka for replenishment. China always exercises freedom of the high seas in accordance with the law and fully respects coastal countries’ jurisdiction over scientific research activities in waters under their jurisdiction.
  • Second, Sri Lanka is a sovereign country. It has the right to develop relations with other countries based on its development interests. To have normal cooperation is the independent choice made by our two countries. It serves the shared interests of both sides and does not target any third party.” Without directly referring to India, he added that it was “completely unjustified for certain countries to cite the so-called ‘security concerns’ to pressure Sri Lanka.”