Amid India’s security concerns and some back-and-forth, a Chinese ship finally docked at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port today. Sri Lanka had earlier asked China to postpone the visit.
But what do India’s worries about the ship stem from?
Here are 5 reasons:
The ship, Yuang Wang 5, has sensors that can track India’s ballistic missiles if they are tested. India tests its missiles at Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha.
China, using the ship’s high-tech capabilities, will be in a position to gauge the range and accuracy of the Indian missiles, if tested. The ship is scheduled to remain at the port for “replenishment purposes” till August 22. It left China on July 14 and did not enter a single port before Hambantota, sailing with zero replenishment for over a month.
Yuang Wang 5 may also carry out oceanic surveys that can facilitate submarine operations in the Indian Ocean. In 2021, a Chinese government survey ship — Xiang Yang Hong 03 — was operating in the same region in the Indian Ocean and carrying out a search pattern west of Sumatra.
India-Lanka ties had come under strain after Colombo gave permission to a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to dock in one of its ports in 2014. This time, Sri Lanka has said the ship will have to keep its Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on, and it’s is not allowed to carry out scientific research. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority has also said that although a Chinese company is in charge of Hambantota port, the operational issues are handled by it.
India’s concerns have been focused on the Hambantota port, which was leased to China Merchant Port Holdings for 99 years after Sri Lanka was unable to repay loans taken for its development. This led to constant fears of its use for military purposes. China, which is engaged in a border standoff with India, is Sri Lanka’s main creditor with investment in infrastructure. India, however, has been Sri Lanka’s essential-supply lifeline in its festering economic crisis.