The Sri Lankan government has allowed a Chinese research vessel to remain in a major port on the island despite Indian concerns expressed that it was spying on New Delhi military installations, officials said.
According to international marine monitoring and data analysis platforms, Yuan Wang 5 is a research vessel. But the Indian media considers it a spy ship.
India is concerned about China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean and Sri Lanka, which New Delhi considers part of its sphere of influence.
The Yuan was originally scheduled to dock at the Chinese port of Hambantota on August 11, but Colombo repeatedly delayed the ship’s docking date in the face of Indian protests.
Nirmal B. said: Sri Lanka Port Authority Silva: “Today I received permission for a ship to stay in Hambantota from 16 to 22 August.”
Sri Lankan foreign ministry sources confirmed that Colombo had extended the permit issued on 12 July.
Port officials said the Chinese ship was about 1,000 kilometers southeast of Sri Lanka on Friday evening and was slowly heading towards the deep water port of Hambantota.
In 2017, Colombo failed to pay its $1.4 billion debt under a Beijing contract to build Hambantota and was forced to hand over the port for 99 years to a Chinese company.
The CNN-News 18 network from India reports that the Yuan Wang 5 is a spy ship that can be used to track space and satellites, as well as launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Government of India expressed concern that the vessel could spy on its activities and filed a complaint with Colombo.