China’s military vessel approaching Sri Lanka causes a diplomatic impasse

13 August, 2022 | Pranay Lad

Yuan Wang 5 Headlines

Officials from India and the United States have urged the bankrupt country to reject China’s proposal to dock.The Chinese navy ship is reportedly unarmed most likely, it is sailing in the Ind...

Officials from India and the United States have urged the bankrupt country to reject China’s proposal to dock.
The Chinese navy ship is reportedly unarmed most likely, it is sailing in the Indian Ocean. Nobody even knows where it will go.

However, over the last week, a 730-foot-long Chinese satellite-tracking vessel has been the subject of increasing tensions and a symbol of the escalating geopolitical tug-of-war between India and the US, and China over Sri Lanka at a time when the economically devastated island nation is caught between major financial supporters.

The Yuan Wang 5 has been travelling from China to Hambantota port on Sri Lanka’s southern point since July after authorities there granted permission for a stopover for “replenishment.” However, officials from India and the United States have exerted significant pressure on the Sri Lankan government to suspend access to the port, angering their Chinese counterparts.

Caught in-between, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday that it formally requested that China postpone the visit while also adding that it “wished to underscore the lasting friendship and great relations between Sri Lanka and China.” According to reports in Sri Lankan media on Thursday, the ship slowed down and made a U-turn before continuing on its course toward the island.

According to a senior source at the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry with firsthand knowledge of the conversations, Sri Lankan authorities were still negotiating with the Chinese as of Thursday, when the Yuan Wang 5 was initially due to arrive, over whether and when to allow the ship to dock.

The Sri Lankan source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential conversations between nations, claimed that officials from India, China, and the United States had all been vigorously pressing behind the scenes.

Even though a Chinese navy ship docking in Hambantota is not strategically significant, officials from India and the United States contend that it would be seen as Sri Lanka favouring China, a significant creditor, at a time when the troubled Colombo government needs to renegotiate its debt with several foreign lenders and obtain a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

India, which views South Asia as its traditional area of influence and seeks to counteract China’s expanding position there, offered the island $4 billion in loans to buy emergency gasoline when Sri Lanka’s economy fell into free fall this year.

This week, China implied that India had engaged in “gross meddling” in its affairs and disregarded India’s concerns about the possibility of spying on the country using sensors aboard the Yuan Wang 5.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, told reporters in Beijing that it was abnormal for a third party to exert pressure on Sri Lanka due to purported security concerns.

According to American analysts, the People’s Liberation Army would establish a footing in a very strategic area adjacent to vital maritime routes and the Persian Gulf if China were to deploy military boats out of Hambantota, which it has not done so far.

Analysts note that the United States has always supported the idea of unimpeded navigation and frequently annoys China with its naval manoeuvres, so it is hard for Washington to openly argue for denying China access to the port.

A news agency said that “India is harassing a bankrupt country.” “Indians believe they now have the upper hand just because they contributed $4 billion. How does that sum compare to the sums that China has donated to Sri Lanka over time?

Retd. Indian Navy former chief, Adm. Arun Prakash, suggested lowering the temperature. He said that a conflict between India and China favoured neither nation, including Sri Lanka.

Especially now, when Sri Lanka is at its lowest, he remarked, “We need to respect Sri Lanka’s autonomy.” It is a sovereign nation with the authority to permit any ship to dock there. There is no Monroe Doctrine in the area.

Also Read: Iran conservative media applaud Salman Rushdie attacker