- India is opposed to Chinese research vessels berthed
- Is Sri Lanka the evil eye of geopolitics?
- SL, seeks equal ties with all the key countries - US, Japan, India and China
By Kelum Bandara
After the Chinese research vessel Shi Yang 6 which is scheduled to reach Sri Lanka on October 26, another similar ship ‘Xiang Yang Hong 03’ is scheduled to berth in a Sri Lankan port later in January, next year triggering geopolitical concerns that fix Sri Lanka’s foreign policy handlers in a tricky situation to balance out its interests with other players in the region, particularly India.
Despite India’s resistance, Sri Lanka permitted Shi Yang 6 to arrive in Sri Lankan waters in October to carry out research in the Indian Ocean in partnership with National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).
An informed source said a team of officials from the NARA would board Shi Yang 6 to observe research activities, an act widely seen by Sri Lankan interlocutors as an attempt by the government to signal to the countries which are at loggerheads with China that Sri Lanka is privy to what is transpiring in the whole process and to make sure that it will pose no security threat to any third country.
Sri Lanka, as a country, seeks equal ties with all the key countries - the United States, Japan, India and China. It says it advocates a neutral foreign policy. However, India, Japan and the United States are skeptical about Chinese maritime activities in the Sri Lankan territorial waters since they fear that it is part of a major effort by China to systematically map the seabed across the vast swath of the Indian Ocean. They fear hydrographic data, collected in the process, can be used for security related purposes later.
Nevertheless, Sri Lanka insists that it is a neutral venue open to all the countries, and won’t allow its territory, be it sea, airspace or land, to be used against the security interests of another country, particularly India.
Still, India feels uncertain. A top source familiar with Indian affairs said Sri Lanka’s neutral position is acceptable but it is doubtful for India whether Sri Lanka, being economically weak, has the strength to maintain such an approach. The source cited India itself as an example. India purchases fuel from Russia despite objection by the United States. India can act in this way because it is powerful enough to resist any pressure in the preservation of its interests. Does Sri Lanka have?
Daily Mirror learns that China is adamant that it sends its research vessels. It is not ready to budge down from its stand merely due to the pressure from a third country.