Sri Lanka authorizes the stay of a Chinese boat suspected by India of being a spy ship

Sri Lanka authorizes the stay of a Chinese boat suspected by India of being a spy ship

The Indian neighbor has been protesting for several days against the arrival of the Yuan Wang 5 in the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, under Chinese governance.

The port of Hambantota, Sri Lanka, February 10, 2015. AFP

The Sri Lankan government has allowed a Chinese research vessel to stay in a major port on the island despite concerns from India that the vessel could spy on military installations in New Delhi, officials said.
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International maritime surveillance and data analysis platforms describe the Yuan Wang 5 as a research and survey vessel, but Indian media consider it to be a spy ship.

India is concerned about China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka, which it says are part of its sphere of influence.

The Yuan Wang 5 was originally scheduled to call at the Chinese-ruled port of Hambantota on Aug. 11, but Colombo had continually pushed back the ship’s stay in the face of Indian protests.

“I received today the authorization (from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs),” Nirmal P. Silva, an official with the Sri Lankan port authorities, told AFP, allowing the ship to stay in Hambantota from 16 to August 22.

Sources within the Foreign Ministry said Colombo had finally renewed its authorization, initially given on July 12, “in a spirit of good understanding”, as Sri Lanka needed international aid.

Port officials said the Chinese ship was nearly 1,000 kilometers southeast of Sri Lanka on Friday evening and was slowly heading towards the deep-water port of Hambantota.

In 2017, Colombo found itself unable to service its $1.4 billion debt contracted with Beijing for the construction of Hambantota and had to sell it for 99 years to a Chinese company.

For the Indian channel CNN-News18, the Yuan Wang 5 is a dual-use spy ship, used for space and satellite tracking and used specifically for intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

The Indian government expressed concern that the vessel might spy on its activities and had complained to Colombo about it.

The New Delhi foreign minister warned against “any impact on the security and economic interests of India (which) would take all necessary measures to safeguard them”.

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