August 9, 2022


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India says it will protect its interests as Chinese boats head to Sri Lanka

India says it will protect its interests as Chinese boats head to Sri Lanka

NEW DELHI/COLOMBO (Reuters) – India, which is trying to expand its influence in crisis-hit Sri Lanka after China made significant progress there, said on Thursday it was aware of reports regarding the planned visit of a Chinese ship to a Sri Lankan port built with money from Beijing.

Shipping data from Refinitiv Eikon showed that the research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 was on its way to the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota and is expected to arrive on August 11.

“The government is carefully monitoring any developments that have an impact on India’s security and economic interests, and is taking all necessary measures to protect them,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Arindam Bagshi told a weekly briefing.

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“I think that should be a clear message.”

He did not mention what actions India was taking and to whom the message was directed.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sri Lankan officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

A Sri Lankan government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Indian diplomats in Colombo lodged an oral protest with the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry on Monday.

“track distances”

Sri Lankan consultancy firm, Belt and Road Initiative Sri Lanka, said on its website that Yuan Wang 5 will be in Hambantota for a week.

“The ship will conduct space tracking, satellite monitoring and tracking research in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean region during the months of August and September,” he added. she sayswithout citing a source.

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Sri Lanka formally handed over trading activities at its main southern port to a Chinese company in 2017 on a 99-year lease after it struggled to repay its debts. The port is located near the main shipping route from Asia to Europe.

American and Indian officials were concerned that the $1.5 billion port would become a Chinese military base.

A Sri Lankan official told Reuters on Monday that Beijing is willing to pump more money into Chinese-backed mega projects in Hambantota and Colombo. Read more

China is one of Sri Lanka’s largest lenders, and has also financed airports, roads and railways, much to India’s concern.

While Sri Lanka is now grappling with its worst economic crisis in seven decades, this year alone India has provided it with nearly $4 billion in support.

In response to a tweet about Hambantota’s proposed visit, Indian security analyst Nitin A. Gokhale based Sri Lanka’s decision to allow a Chinese submarine and a warship to dock in Colombo in 2014, a move that angered India at the time.

Gokhale said on Twitter: “Back 2014?” Harmless port or deliberate provocation?

India’s concerns about Chinese influence in Sri Lanka come as US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping held their fifth call as leaders on Thursday amid tensions over a possible visit to Taiwan, which is being demanded by China by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Read more

On Thursday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said the Taiwan military also fired flares to warn a drone that had “peeked” at a strategically and heavily fortified island near the Chinese coast that might have been investigating its defences.

(Krishna reports in Das in New Delhi); Additional reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe in Colombo, U Lun Tian in Beijing and Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; Editing by Frances Kerry and Gareth Jones

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.