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Chinese research ship to visit Sri Lanka

  • Category
    International Relations
  • Published
    29th Sep, 2023

Context

Chinese research ship is going to dock on Sri Lanka’s Colombo port in October, which is seen as a concern by US, India for security of Indo-pacific region.

Background:

  • Last year, India had objected to a Chinese ship docking in the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota.
  • India raised objections to a Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship staying at Hambantota port on Sri Lanka’s southern coast.
  • While Sri Lanka had earlier asked China to postpone the arrival of the hi-tech vessel following Indian concerns, it later overturns its stand.

The US too had earlier this year shot down what it called a Chinese spy balloon floating over its territory, while Beijing said it was a weather balloon.

Why the Chinese is ship coming to Sri Lanka?

  • A vessel named ‘Shi Yan 6’, a scientific research vessel, with a 60-member crew, is going to land on Sri Lankan port.
  • The research ship aims to carry out oceanography, marine geology and marine ecology tests.
  • The  Chinese research vessel is expected in the island country in October to carry out research along with Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA)

Why does India object to Chinese vessels docking in Sri Lanka?

  • Security threats: India considers Chinese ships docked so close to its mainland a security threat, and suspects they could be used for snooping, even when their stated aim is scientific research.

Why is China’s Presence in Sri Lanka a Concern for India?

  • China’s Debt strategy: Recently, China's presence in Sri Lanka has increased on a large scale.
    • China is the largest bilateral creditor to Sri Lanka.
    • Its loans to the Sri Lankan public sector amount to 15% of the central government’s external debt.
    • Sri Lanka heavily relies on Chinese credit to address its foreign debt burden.
  • Investment on Infrastructure: China extended about USD 2.8 billion to Sri Lanka soon after the pandemic hit but has not stepped in much in 2022, even as the island’s economy collapsed rapidly.
    • China has invested about USD 12 billion in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure projects between 2006-19.
  • Relations with Island countries: China enjoys friendlier waters in South Asia and the Indian Ocean than it does in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
    • China faces opposition from Taiwan, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East Asia, and myriad frictions with the US and Australia.

Geo-strategic consequences:

  • Threat for Multilateral approach in Indo-Pacific region: Leasing of Hambantota and the Colombo Port City project make it almost certain for the Chinese navy to have a permanent presence in the Indian Ocean which will be worrisome for India’s national security.
  • This Chinese strategy to encircle India is referred to as the Strings of Pearls Strategy.
  • China’s focus on developing countries: Other South Asian nations like Bangladesh, Nepal and the Maldives have also been turning to China to finance large-scale infrastructure projects.

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