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Chinese research vessel ‘SHI YAN 6’ is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka, security concerns to India

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Chinese research vessel ‘SHI YAN 6’ is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka, security concerns to India

Colombo: Sri Lanka is currently processing a request by China to allow a research ship to dock in the country, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday, a year after a visit by a Chinese spy vessel to the Island nation raised security concerns in India.

“The Chinese embassy here has made an application and the ministry is currently looking at it,” Priyanga Wickramasingha, the foreign ministry spokesperson, told media. No dates have been fixed yet for the visit, she said.

The Chinese research vessel ‘SHI YAN 6’ is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka for marine research activities in October.

Described as a Research/Survey Vessel with a carrying capacity of 1115 DWT, the current draught is reported to be 5.3 metres in length overall 90.6 metres and width 17 metres. The media here is abuzz that the foreign office here is in an awkward position about the request due to possible concerns being raised by India.

The vessel is expected to undertake research jointly with the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA).

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The Chinese despatch their vessels to Sri Lanka on a regular basis. Two weeks ago, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy warship HAI YANG 24 HAO arrived in the country on a two-day visit.

It was reported that the arrival of the 129-metre-long ship was delayed due to concerns raised by India. In August last year, a similar visit by the Chinese ballistic missile and satellite tracking ship, ‘Yuan Wang 5’, which arrived in the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota elicited strong reactions from India.

There were apprehensions in New Delhi about the possibility of the vessel’s tracking systems attempting to snoop on Indian defence installations while being on its way to the Sri Lankan port.

However, after a considerable delay, Sri Lanka allowed the ship to dock at the strategic southern port of Hambantota, being built by a Chinese company.

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka considers both India and China equally important partners in its task to restructure its external debt. China is one of the top lenders to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka owes USD 7.1 billion to bilateral creditors, including USD 3 billion to China. The negotiations for Sri Lanka’s external and domestic debt restructuring must be concluded by September, the time for the International Monetary Fund’s review of its USD 2.9 billion bailout extended in March this year.

The island nation was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves.

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