Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Founding Chair GSRRA, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization). (E-mail: [email protected]).
Despite Indian and American resistance, a Chinese research ship docked in Sri Lanka's Hambantota port. The Yuan Wang 5 was given permission to dock and remain till 22 August 2022.
Foreign security analysts quoted by Reuters describe the Yuan Wang 5 as one of China's latest generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket, and intercontinental ballistic missile launches. Several Indian media reports described it as a "dual-use spy ship". Shipping analytics websites call it a research and survey vessel. Earlier in July, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said the government was monitoring the ship's planned visit, adding that Delhi would protect its security and economic interests. According to a Reuters report, India had lodged a verbal protest with the Sri Lankan government against the ship's visit.
However, the ship is the latest version of research purpose built and equipped with the latest gadgets and instruments. It is on a routine visit and has reached Sri Lanka as per its schedule.
China responded, saying it was "completely unjustified for certain countries to cite so-called 'security concerns' to pressure Sri Lanka" - though it did not name any specific country. Sri Lanka later announced that the boat would be given permission to dock.
China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin dismissed concerns about the ship in a briefing Tuesday.
“I would like to reiterate that the marine scientific research conducted by the research ship Yuan Wang 5 conforms to international law and international common practice, and will not affect the security and economic interests of any country,” he said.
The controversy over the ship reflects the diplomatic tight spot that Sri Lanka finds itself in every time it has to choose between India and China.
Delhi has been at the forefront of sending aid to Sri Lanka in recent months to help it overcome its economic crisis, and was trying to enhance its influence over Sri Lanka. In fact, India was pressurizing Sri Lanka in the critical crisis period to keep its distance from China and in return was extending aid, but this latest controversy could cast a shadow over this. It will be interesting to see how Delhi reacts to this in the coming days - both privately with Sri Lankan leaders and in their public statements.
The US was also trying to influence Sri Lanka and tried to diffuse Chinese influence. Even, they are using IMF as a political tool to harm Chinese interests in Sri Lanka. IMF has demanded strict conditions for bailing out and linked it to keeping distance from China. But, Sri Lanka is a sovereign state and has the right of making decisions in its best interest. Finally, they allowed the visit of a Chinese research ship. It is a slap on the US and Indian faces and a victory for China.
There were allegations of Chinese secret help to Sri Lanka in addition to immediate publically financial assistance at the peak of the crisis. In fact, Relations ship between Sri Lanka and China is deep-rooted and cannot be damaged so easily. The interests of two nations are a strong bond and termed as the nations of shared destiny.
Western media is spreading reports that China has lost Sri Lanka and India – the US is working to isolate Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal from China. But, the ground realities are that China is a major contributor to developments in South Asia – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives, etc. Only India is a country having a tussle with China. The whole of South Asia, minus One (India) is pro-China and is a nation of shared destiny.
China is a partner in peace and development in South Asia, while India is serving American interests and opposing the peaceful rise of China. It should be noted that China focused on developments for almost four decades, keeping all differences and disputes and making miraculous achievements in all dimensions. China has surpassed the stage, where any country can coerce it so conveniently. China will continue its role of peaceful development and friendly relations with all South Asian nations.
(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)