En medio del asfixiante agarre de la deuda china, Sri Lanka ahora alberga en el puerto de Colombo al buque Shi Yan 6
A week after Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to Beijing to attend the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Chinese surveillance ship Shi Yan 6 on October 25 docked at the island nation’s Colombo Port, Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kapila Fonseka was quoted by Associated Press as saying.
There is concern among strategic thinkers of the region as Shi Yan 6 is slated to conduct surveys off the Island nation’s waters for the next 17 days after docking at Colombo Port. However, Associated Press quoted the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Spokesperson as saying that the vessel has been given permission to dock for replenishment at the Colombo Port from October 25 until October 28.
CGTN calls Shi Yan 6 as a “scientific research vessel” with a crew of 60 on board it. The state-backed Chinese broadcaster said it has been deployed to study the “current system in the local topographic evolution and its relationship with seabed sediments and geology.”
But there is more to this than meets the eye. Shi Yan 6, which has been described by South China Morning Post as a 90-metre-long vessel, has been deployed to experiment on the sea bed to see future submarine operations of People’s Liberation Army-Navy.
In August, Sri Lanka had announced that the Chinese research vessel is scheduled to arrive in October for marine research activities in collaboration with the island nation’s National Aquatic Resource Research and Development Agency (NARA).
Several countries, including the US in September expressed their concern to Sri Lanka about the scheduled visit of the Chinese research vessel to the island nation.
As per a report, since 2019 as many as 48 Chinese scientific research vessels have been deployed in the Indian Ocean Region with a significant number of them being deployed in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
In August 2022, Chinese Navy’s Yuan Wang 5, known for its surveillance capabilities arrived at Hambantota Port—a deep sea port which was given by Sri Lanka to the Chinese company that built it on a 99-year lease after Colombo was unable to service a $1.4 billion loan taken for the project.
The Yuan Wang 5, one of China’s latest generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, remained at Hambantota Port from August 16 to August 22.
On July 20-21, when Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe visited India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had clearly told him that Colombo has to take care of India’s interests.
India came to Sri Lanka’s rescue last year when the island nation defaulted on its $46 billion external debt and fell into an unprecedented economic crisis, partly due to Chinese loans which were used to build white elephant infrastructure projects between 2005 and 2015. New Delhi offered $4 billion in emergency assistance to Colombo.
In an interview with The Print, a New Delhi-based news portal in June, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India, Milinda Moragoda had admitted that $4 billion economic aid from India helped crisis-ridden island nation in securing a $2.9 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year.
Despite this, to keep China in good humour, Sri Lanka keeps on allowing Beijing to dock its surveillance vessels. This is a cause of huge concerns among strategic thinkers in India and abroad.