- The 129 metre-long ship is manned by a crew of 138 and commanded by Commander Jin Xin
- The ship is scheduled to depart the country tomorrow
By Kelum Bandara
Sri Lanka finally allowed a Chinese warship to make a port of call in Colombo for replenishment yesterday despite India’s initial resistance, Daily Mirror learns. The navy said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy warship HAI YANG 24 HAO arrived at the port of Colombo on a formal visit yesterday.
“The 129 metre-long ship which arrived in Colombo is manned by a crew of 138 and it is commanded by Commander Jin Xin. The ship is scheduled to depart the country tomorrow,” the navy said.
The Chinese authorities sought permission for it earlier, but Sri Lanka delayed permission because of resistance from India. India and China are geopolitical rivals competing for strategic interests in Sri Lanka located at a crucial point in the Indian Ocean. According to an informed source, Sri Lanka briefed India about the Chinese ship making a port of call in Colombo. It is learnt that India is particularly opposed to Sri Lanka allowing Chinese research vessels in Sri Lankan ports.
“India is ‘ok’ with the normal port of call by other types of vessels,” the source said.
India protested when a Chinese survey ship visited Sri Lanka earlier last year. Despite India’s concerns, Sri Lanka allowed the ship to be docked at the Hambantota Port then. The ship ‘Yuan Wang 5 ‘was described then as a research and survey vessel.
However, some security analysts said that the ship was also packed with space and satellite tracking electronics that can monitor rocket and missile launches.
Sri Lanka has increasingly come under pressure from world powers such as the United States and India not to allow docking of Chinese military vessels in its ports. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has maintained that Sri Lanka stands for a neutral Asia-centric foreign policy without being caught in super-power rivalry. Also, he said the conflict involving Taiwan should not allow to be played out in the waters of Indian Ocean.
Currently Sri Lanka is in an exercise to manage equally good relations both with New Delhi and Beijing because both the powers are crucial in restructuring the country’s external debts. The President visited New Delhi recently and held talks on numerous connectivity projects between the two countries including land connectivity. India is skeptical whether Sri Lanka has the necessary strength to maintain a neutral foreign policy.