We monitor all developments: Jaishankar on Chinese vessel in Lanka
Both India and the US had opposed the visit of Yuan Wang 5 to Hambantota port, which is controlled by the Chinese.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that India carefully monitors all developments in its neighbourhood, such as the visit of a Chinese tracking vessel to Sri Lanka, that have implications on national security.
Jaishankar made the remarks while addressing a joint news conference with his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok following a meeting of the India-Thailand joint commission. He was speaking a day after the Yuan Wang 5, a vessel used by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to track satellites and ballistic missiles, arrived at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for replenishment.
Asked by a reporter about the Chinese ship’s visit to Sri Lanka, Jaishankar replied: “What happens in our neighbourhood, any developments which have a bearing on our security or which is of interest to us, I think that [the external affairs ministry] spokesman had said some time ago that we obviously monitor any development which has a bearing on our interests very, very carefully.”
“I will leave it at that,” he said, without going into details.
Both India and the US had opposed the visit of Yuan Wang 5 to Hambantota port, which is controlled by the Chinese. The Sri Lankan government had initially asked the Chinese side to defer the original plan for the ship to call at Hambantota during August 11-17 but subsequently made a U-turn and allowed the visit to go ahead from August 16.
India’s primary concern is that the Yuan Wang 5’s visit to Hambantota could be a precursor to more frequent visits by Chinese vessels to the island nation that sits astride several crucial shipping lanes, people familiar with the matter said. There are also concerns that the Yuan Wang 5 didn’t call at Colombo port for replenishment, like other Chinese warships have done in the past, but had instead gone to a Chinese-controlled facility.
Hambantota port was built by state-run China Merchants Port Holdings as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Sri Lanka leased the port to China for 99 years in 2017 after it was unable to repay the loan for the project.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said China won’t be allowed to use Hambantota port for “military purposes”, and that the Yuan Wang 5 had been permitted to call at the port as a “research ship”.