India-China Diplomatic Tussle to Worsen as Sri Lanka Allows Dubious Chinese Ship to Dock at Hambantota

Sri Lanka buckled under pressure from the Chinese and allowed the docking of a vessel at the Hambantota port despite intense objection raised by the Indian government.

IANS reported that Sri Lanka announced on Saturday that it has allowed controversial Chinese vessel 'Yuan Wang 5' to dock at the island's southern-most port, the Chinese-run Hambantota.

The Lankan move is likely to worsen a diplomatic tussle between India and China. The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said it gave permission for the vessel to be docked at the port on August 16.

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Described as a research and survey vessel, but alleged to be a spy ship, the Chinese vessel was originally planned to reach Hambantota on August 11 but its arrival was deferred following Sri Lanka's requested to postpone the arrival indefinitely.

China's 420ft Dongdiao class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing
China's 420ft Dongdiao class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing Twitter

When Sri Lanka requested a postponement of the arrival, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin protested and charged halting of the vessel from entering the Hambantota Port was "completely unjustified" and accused India, claiming "certain countries" put pressure on Sri Lanka, claiming "security concerns".

On July 12, diplomatic clearance for the Chinese vessel to make a call at the Hambantota Port from August 11-17, for replenishment purposes, was conveyed by the Foreign Ministry to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo.

But following concerns by India and other political parties and experts, the Ministry communicated to the Chinese mission to defer the ship visit.

On Friday, India rejected claims that it has put pressure on Sri Lanka to not allow 'Yuan Wang 5' to visit Hambantota port.

"We reject categorically the 'insinuation' and such statement about India. Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and makes its own independent decisions," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said.

(With IANS Inputs)