BY: VIKAS MAVI
7 August, 2022 (New Delhi): The Yuan Wang 5, a Chinese naval ship, has been ordered to “defer” arriving at Hambantota, the southern port of Sri Lanka, according to Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry.
Earlier (12th July), the Foreign Ministry had granted permission for the Yuan Wang-class ship to berth at Hambantota port. The decision was taken in hasten a day before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to leave office by a people’s movement.
In a communication sent to the Chinese embassy in Colombo on Friday, the foreign ministry asked for stall on the visit until further consultations. The communication said, “be deferred until further consultations are made on this matter”.
SHOCK FOR INDIA
India has given Sri Lanka $4 billion in financial and material aid since January and has been supporting it in its negotiations with the IMF for a package to help it recover from the collapse of its economy.
The news that the Colombo government had authorized the Chinese military vessel to berth at Hambantota came as a shock for India who didn’t shied away to communicate the same to Colombo.
WHY COLOMBO SAID ‘NO’ NOW
The Lankan government initially tried to reassure India by claiming that it was a “research” ship for development purposes and that it would only be stopping by for a week from August 11 to August 17. Later, Delhi had been informed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s administration that permission had been granted by the previous government.
But now, according to a communication from the Foreign Ministry to the Chinese embassy, permits for the ship to dock in Hambantota has been put on hold, since, at that time Sri Lankan government was in total disarray (Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was planning his escape from the nation while he was hiding).
NOT THE TIME TO LET GUARD DOWN
The Hambantota Port was developed with heavy loans from China. In 2017, the Sri Lankan government leased it to a China Merchants Port Holdings Company, which is a Hong Kong-based shipping company, for a period of 99 years. The port’s strategic location gives Chinese a big leverage as they now try to bring spy ships to breach into India’s line of naval defense. Colombo has asked Beijing to ‘defer’ the visit until further discussions, this clearly indicate the existence of the possibility of the spy ship’s entry in India’s backyard.