External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Wednesday said that New Delhi was monitoring “very closely” the developments in the neighbourhood. The response was to a question on the Chinese spy vessel Yuan Wang 5 having docked in Hambantota port in Sri Lanka despite India raising objections.
“What happens in our neighbourhood, any developments which have a bearing on our security obviously are of an interest to us,” Jaishankar said while speaking at the 9th India-Thailand Joint Commission Meeting in Bangkok.
“I think a spokesman had said some time ago, we obviously monitor any development, which has a bearing on our interests very, very carefully. So, I think I will leave it at that,” he added.
This comes a day after the Chinese ship docked at the port after Sri Lankan authorities granted the vessel access to the port from August 16 to 22 on condition that it will keep the Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Sri Lanka and no scientific research to be conducted in Sri Lankan waters.
However, the Chinese ship bearing a red and white banner read “Long Live China and Sri Lanka friendship” with the Chinese envoy to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong standing at the dock to receive the vessel.
Speaking to reporters at Hambantota port, when asked about the delays and India’s concerns, Ambassador Qi Zhenhong said, “Everybody knows, I don’t need to explain.”
On the delay in the arrival of the ship, he said, “I don’t know Maybe this is life This is not the first time that this kind of vessel has visited Sri Lanka. In 2014, this type of Chinese vessel visited Colombo. It is very natural. Hope our media friends will tell the objective of the issues.”
There have been reports that after Sri Lanka refused entry to the Chinese ship, the Sri Lankan administration had to do a U-turn given the pressure by Beijing to allow the vessel else there would be no support from China for the IMF bailout package that Colombo is seeking and further curtailment of bilateral financial help which Beijing has not been very forthcoming with anyway.
As a face-saver, government spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told reporters over the weekend, “We are granting the same (port) facilities that we extend to all countries All countries are important to us.”
However, both sides are tightlipped on what made Sri Lanka change its decision. The ship, which was to dock on August 11, reached Hambantota on August 16. The vessel will remain at the port for six days for refuelling and replenishment of supplies.
— ENDS —