Confusion Over Sri Lanka Granting Permission to Chinese Survey Vessel in October

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Sri Lanka asked China to revise arrival of the ship and the permission to dock may be given after President Wickremesinghe visits China in October.

Confusion prevails in Sri Lanka over granting permission to Chinese Research vessel Shi Yan 6 to conduct ocean survey off the island nation in October after New Delhi raised its serious concerns with the Ranil Wickremesinghe government. The ship is as of now slated to arrive on October 25 and said to conduct joint ocean surveys with Sri Lankan government agency NARA for the next 17 days after docking at Colombo and Hambantota ports.

While newspaper Sri Lanka Mirror reported that its defence ministry had given clearance to the Chinese ship for docking at the two Sri Lankan ports, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson has been quoted in news agencies saying that the request from the Chinese Embassy was being processed and no decision had been taken.

India has officially raised concerns to Sri Lanka for allowing a free run to Chinese survey, surveillance and ballistic missile trackers ships at its Colombo and Hambantota deep sea ports. During President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India in July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the leader to ensure that India’s strategic and security concerns are addressed by the Island nation in the Indian Ocean.

Although there are multiple voices within Colombo on granting permission to the ship, it is understood that President Wickremesinghe will take a decision after he attends the Belt-Road-Initiative summit in Beijing in the second half of October. With Sri Lanka deep in Chinese debt, it is quite evident that Colombo cannot afford to annoy President Xi Jinping with Hambantota port already given on 99 year lease to China by none other than Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister during the infamous Rajapaksa regime.

Sri Lanka is currently being economically propped up by IMF loans and the Paris club of creditor nations as its economy is in doldrums and not expected to recover this decade with high inflation and poor dollar-Sri Lankan rupee exchange rate. It was none other than the Modi government that came to aid Sri Lanka after the 2021 economic and political crisis by offering some USD 4 billion as aid including food, oil and aviation fuel.

As India has made its concerns known after China mapping the Indian Ocean bed for future submarine activity and charting out new sea routes to African coast via south Indian Ocean, it is learnt that Sri Lanka has asked China to revise the schedule of Shi Yan 6 and push back the date of arrival to November 2023.

However, much as Sri Lanka appears to address India’s security concerns vis-à-vis Chinese surveillance vessel, it is quite evident that Xi Jinping regime will have its way with the Island nation as Colombo has piled up huge BRI debt in building white elephant airports and ports by Chinese company using high-interest loans from Chinese EXIM banks.

Source: Hindustan Times