It is not unusual for Chinese warships to dock at the Colombo port in Sri Lanka, China said Monday after a Chinese submarine was allowed at the port over the weekend amid India’s rising diplomatic unease over the frequency of such visits.
Last month, another Chinese submarine had made a port call in Colombo ahead of President Xi Jinping’s south Asia tour.
On Friday, submarine Changzheng-2 and warship Chang Xing Dao arrived at the Colombo port for five-day visit.
“A submarine and a warship have docked at Colombo harbour. They called on Oct. 31 and will be here for five days for refuelling and crew refreshment,” Sri Lankan navy spokesperson Kosala Warnakulasuriya was quoted as saying by news agencies.
In Beijing, an unnamed defence ministry official dismissed India’s concerns about the docking of the submarine.
“It is an international common practice for navy submarine to stop for refueling and crew refreshment at an oversea port,” the defence ministry was quoted as having said by the official news agency, Xinhua.
“Chinese Defense Ministry said it is nothing unusual for its naval vessel to dock at Colombo port despite concerns raised by India,” the Xinhua report said.
The official added the Chinese submarine docks during its escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia.
Chinese state media also quoted Warnakulasuriya saying that hundreds of international ships dock at the Colombo port every year.
“This is nothing unusual. Since 2010, 230 warships have called at Colombo port from various countries on goodwill visits and for refueling and crew refreshment,” Warnakulasuriya said.
China has rapidly expanded its footprint in Sri Lanka in the last few years, taking a lead in building large-scale infrastructure in the island nation since the end of the civil war in 2009, May.
According to Xinhua, China has loaned the Sri Lankan government an estimated 5 billion USD for massive infrastructure projects including roads, railways, international airports, ports and even a 1.2 billion USD coal power plant.
Bilateral trade between the two countries was worth more than 3.62 billion USD last year. Beijing and Colombo aim to sign a Free Trade Agreement in 2015.