Sri Lanka says it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to dock at its ports or in EEZ | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Sri Lanka says it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to dock at its ports or in EEZ

By, New Delhi
Dec 31, 2023 10:26 PM IST

Sri Lanka has informed India that it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to dock at its ports or operate within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for one year. The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged President Ranil Wickremesinghe to respect Indian strategic and security concerns. Sri Lanka's decision means that the Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 will not be granted clearance to conduct deep water exploration in the south Indian Ocean.

Sri Lanka has informed India that it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to dock at its ports or operate within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for a period of one year, people aware of the matter said on Sunday.

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The move comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging President Ranil Wickremesinghe to respect Indian strategic and security concerns during their meeting on July 21, 2023.

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The declared moratorium was conveyed to India through apex diplomatic channels last week, the people cited above added.

This means that Chinese scientific research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3, which was scheduled to conduct “deep water exploration” in the south Indian Ocean from January 5, 2024 to late May, will not be granted a clearance by Sri Lankan authorities. China has also asked the current pro-Beijing Mohammed Muizzu regime in Maldives to let the 4,600-tonne Xiamen-based vessel conduct a survey off the coast of Male.

The Wickremesinghe government notified the one-year moratorium last week after India and the US red-flagged Colombo entertaining Chinese scientific research vessels and ballistic missile trackers in the Indian Ocean and providing them logistical support, the people said. India had raised objections to Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 conducting a joint maritime survey with the Sri Lankan maritime agency in October-November, but Colombo allowed the vessel to dock at its seaport after Wickremesinghe visited Beijing for the 10the anniversary of Belt Road Initiative (BRI) on October 17-18. The research vessel reached Colombo on October 25, and crossed the Malacca Straits on December 2. The objections to both Shi Yan 6, which was expected to be back in Sri Lanka around March, and Xiang Yang Hong 3, were conveyed to Wickremesinghe by top Indian diplomatic interlocutors, the people added.

In the past, Chinese research ships, ballistic missile trackers and hydrographic vessels have entered the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and conducted deep surveys of the 90-degree ridge south of the Andamans and Nicobar Islands. For example, Deng Jiaxian, a Shupang-class hydrographic vessel, was deployed in IOR from August 10-24. The ship re-entered IOR through the Sunda Straits on August 28 and exited through the Lombok/Ombai Wetar Straits in early September 2023. On September 11, the same vessel was seen surveying the Philippines Sea.

This year, at least 25 Chinese ships including PLA warships, submarines, ballistic missile trackers and research vessels operated in the IOR, much to the chagrin of India and the US. Since 2019, a total of 48 Chinese scientific research vessels have been deployed in IOR. Their generic area of activity has been near the east and west coastlines of India, and in the deep Indian Ocean.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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