New Delhi: New Delhi expressed concern over the planned visit of a Chinese military ship to a strategic port in India’s southern neighbour Sri Lanka, a day after India and Chinese foreign ministers were to attend a regional conference in Uzbekistan on Friday.
New Delhi worries that China will use the Hambantota port built and leased by China as a military base in India’s backyard. The $1.5 billion port is near the main shipping route from Asia to Europe.
Shipping data from Refinitiv Eikon showed that the research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 was en route to Hambantota and was expected to arrive on August 11, when Sri Lanka was facing its worst economic crisis in seven decades. India has given its neighbouring country about $ 4 billion in aid this year alone.
China has not officially commented on the ship’s voyage, and the matter has not received emphasis in the Chinese media. China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Foreign security analysts describe the Yuan Wang 5 as one of China’s latest-generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
The Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military modernization states that the Yuan Wang ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Sri Lanka formally handed over commercial activities at its main southern port to a Chinese company in 2017 on a 99-year lease after struggling to repay its debt. China is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest lenders and has also funded airports, roads and railways, unnerving India, which is now trying to claw back lost ground.
Sri Lanka angered India in 2014 when it allowed a Chinese submarine and a warship to dock in Colombo.