On a visit to India, Sri Lankan tourism minister Harin Fernando said on Saturday (August 20) that he hoped that the docking of the Chinese ship Yuan Wang 5 at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, will not cause a “major diplomatic” issue since India understands its situation.
The minister who is in Ahmedabad to promote Sri Lankan tourism said that China has made a lot of investment in Sri Lanka and has been “understanding its requirements in the past.”
India, whose relations soured with China after a clash in the Galwan valley in June 2020, had raised its concerns with Sri Lanka over the visit of the Chinese research and survey vessel Yuan Wang 5 at the Hambantota port, largely financed through Chinese loans. Yuan Wang 5, one of China’s latest space-tracking ships, is allegedly a dual spy vessel, employed for space and satellite tracking and with specific usage in intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
New Delhi was reportedly concerned about the possibility of the ship’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian installations.
Also read: Explained: Why India frowns on Chinese ship docking at Lankan port
Replying to a question in Ahmedabad, tourism minister Harin Fernando said that Sri Lanka is a small country and has very good friendship with everyone. “I am sure India understands that. We have a very good diplomatic relationship with India,” he said.
Further, Fernando said Sri Lanka’s president Ranil Wickremesinghe and its foreign minister were in constant touch with S Jaishankar, minister for external affairs and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I think they understand our situation,” he said.
“There is a lot of investment by the Chinese in Sri Lanka and they have also been quite understanding of our requirements in the past. So, I am quite hopeful this is not a major diplomatic issue. This could be looked into,” he added.
The Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship is currently berthed at Sri Lanka’s southern port of Hambantota and will remain docked at the Chinese-run port till August 22.
Also read: Sri Lanka okays Chinese research ship’s visit to Hambantota port despite India’s concern
Initially, after India registered its concerns, Sri Lanka asked China to defer the ship’s arrival. However, on August 13, the Sri Lankan government granted port access to the vessel from August 16 to 22 on the condition that it will keep the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). And, that no scientific research would be conducted in its waters.
As Sri Lanka battles with an economic crisis with zero foreign reserves, it needs the cooperation from Beijing, which is its key creditor. Meanwhile, India too has provided nearly $4 billion in aid to Sri Lanka this year, including shipments of fuel and food.