The Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday (25/10), a year after a similar visit by a Chinese space tracking vessel that raised security concerns from neighboring India.
New Delhi is suspicious of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka, which is strategically located in the middle of a major east-west international shipping route.
The 90 meter long ship was seen entering Colombo harbor on Wednesday afternoon.
A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry spokesman said the ship had been allowed to dock in the city, where a Chinese state-owned company operates a deep-sea container terminal.
“Permission has been given for the ship to come to Colombo for refueling and other needs,” the spokesman, who asked not to be named, told AFP.
There was no immediate comment from the Chinese or Indian diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka.
Chinese state broadcaster CGTN called the Shi Yan 6 a “scientific research vessel” with a crew of 60 people to carry out oceanographic, geological and marine ecological tests.
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry did not say how long the ship would remain docked in Colombo.
Last year, India expressed concern over a visit to the same port by the Chinese research vessel Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in space tracking and which New Delhi describes as a spy ship.
The ship is anchored in Hambantota, a port in southern Sri Lanka that is now on a 99-year lease by the Chinese company that built it after Colombo was unable to repay a $1.4 billion loan taken out for the project.
Sri Lanka failed to pay its $46 billion in foreign debt last year due to an unprecedented economic crisis, caused in part by Chinese loans used to build infrastructure projects between 2005 and 2015. China owns 52 percent of Sri Lanka’s bilateral debt,
and Beijing’s approval is crucial to any efforts Colombo makes to restructure its debt.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe attended a Beijing forum last week for China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative global infrastructure program.
Source : VOA