Chinese vessel Shi Yan 6 enters Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka sends mixed signals
According to Sri Lankan FM, Colombo has not given permission to the Chinese vessel Shi Yan 6 as Indian security concerns were important to the island nation.
New Delhi: Even as Ranil Wickremesinghe government is sending mixed signals over permission to Chinese research vessel to dock at Colombo port in October, Shi Yan 6 ship has entered the Indian Ocean and its current location is mid-ocean 90 East Ridge and heading towards Sri Lanka.
Since 2019 as many as 48 Chinese scientific research vessels have been deployed in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with the general area of deployment being Bay of Bengal and south as well as the Arabian Sea towards Persian Gulf.
Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry was quoted in media on Monday saying that Colombo has not given permission to the Chinese vessel Shi Yan 6 as Indian security concerns were important to the Island Nation. He, however, qualified his remarks by saying that the negotiations were going on and if the vessel complied with the standard operating procedures of Sri Lanka, then there would be no problems.
A month ago, President Wickremesinghe in an interview with an American think tank was more categorical. He said there are no Chinese spy ships in Sri Lanka and there were no problems in docking permission if the vessel followed SOPs laid down by Sri Lanka. Chinese vessel Shi Yan 6 will conduct joint military scientific research in the Sri Lankan EEZ and beyond in October-November 2023.
India on its part understands that the decision to allow Shi Yan 6 to dock at Colombo will be taken either after or during President Wickremesinghe’s visit to Beijing to celebrate the 10 anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on October 17 and 18. It is another matter that Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has been fueled by high-interest loans and white elephant infrastructure projects under the BRI with Chinese EXIM bank funding during the Rajapaksa era with Wickremesinghe serving as Cabinet Minister and even Prime Minister. It was Wickremesinghe who gave the Hambantota seaport to China on a 99-year lease after Sri Lanka could not pay back loans.
Chinese vessel Shi Yan 6 entered the Indian Ocean via Malacca Straits on September 23 and was seen in Singapore on September 14 after leaving homeport Guangzhou on September 10.
While India has clearly told Sri Lanka to address its security and strategic concerns, China has Colombo under its thumb with mounting debt and intelligence penetration inside the Island nation. Sri Lanka may delay the permission for the so-called Research Vessel to dock at Colombo and hope the November turbulence in the Indian Ocean does the rest.