क्या श्री लंका भारत के खिलाफ चीन के कार्ड का इस्तेमाल कर रहा है?
In the midst of India’s concern, Sri Lanka has once again allowed a Chinese vessel to dock at its one of the ports. On October 25, the island country allowed docking of Shi Yan 6, a 90-metre-long vessel which has been deployed to experiment on the sea bed to see future submarine operations of the PLA-Navy.
Associated Press quoted Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kapila Fonseka as saying that the vessel has been given permission to dock for replenishment at the Colombo Port from October 25 until October 28. But other media reports suggest that the Chinese vessel is expected to conduct surveys off the island nation’s waters for the next 17 days.
Since last year, this is the second time a Chinese vessel, described by China’s state-backed public broadcaster CGTN as a “scientific research vessel” has docked at the Sri Lankan port. It has created a huge concern among India’s strategic thinkers as China has been trying to expand its influence in the island nation, which is located on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes in what India considers as part of its strategic backyard.
In August 2022, Chinese Navy’s Yuan Wang 5, known for its surveillance capabilities arrived at Hambantota Port—a deep sea port which was handed over to the Chinese company that built it on a 99-year lease after Colombo failed 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.
But Sri Lanka seems to be repeatedly ignoring India’s strategic interests. Last year when the island nation fell into an unprecedented economic crisis partly due to Chinese loans which were used to build white elephant infrastructure projects between 2005 and 2015, India 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 $2.9 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund earlier this year.
In 2022, India was the only country to have given Sri Lanka a line of credit to buy essential items like food, fuel and medicine as the island nation grappled with political unrest spurred by the worst economic crisis.
Even when Covid-19 pandemic hit the island nation, India supplied more than 25 tons of medicines to Sri Lanka in May 2020 under its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. In addition, New Delhi gifted 5,00,000 doses of a made in India Covid vaccine, Covishield to Sri Lanka in January 2021, Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan said in a written response to a question in Lok Sabha on March 31, 2023.
According to him, India helped in the transportation of Liquid Medical Oxygen (140MT) to Sri Lanka in August 2021. INS Gharial was deployed for the expeditious delivery of humanitarian supplies of medicine and kerosene to Sri Lanka. Indian Air Force airlifted nano nitrogen fertilizers to meet the island nation’s urgent need of fertilizers in November 2021.
India gifted 100,000 Rapid Antigen Test kits to Sri Lanka as part of its fight with Covid-19 pandemic in February 2022. To meet the acute shortage of medicines in April-May 2022, India provided more than 26 tons of drugs and other medical supplies to Peradeniya University Hospital, Jaffna Teaching Hospital, Hambantota General Hospital and Ambulance Services ‘1990.’ In June 2022 also, 65,000 MT urea were delivered to Sri Lanka.
Despite such humanitarian assistance and liberal financial helps, Sri Lanka seems to be oblivious of India’s concerns about its strategic interests. To keep China in good humour, it keeps on allowing Beijing to dock its surveillance vessels.
China owns 52% of Sri Lanka’s bilateral debt and 10% of its total external debt. This unsustainable debt is considered as the main reason for the island nation’s woes. Yet to accommodate China’s ambitious global interests, Colombo overlooks its close neighbour India’s concerns emanating from regular forays of Chinese vessels into the Sri Lankan waters off the Bay of Bengal. This is a cause of huge concerns among strategic thinkers in India and abroad.